ANKARA (Reuters)–A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister to 28 months in prison for fraud in a political party financing scandal.
Necmettin Erbakan–75–was found guilty of misusing state funds for parties and manufacturing false receipts while leading the Welfare party–banned in 1998 as a center of Islamic fundamentalism a year after Erbakan was forced to step down as premier.
The conviction–if upheld by an appeals court–would bar Erbakan from ever returning to politics. Erbakan remains free pending the appeal.
The court also sentenced 71 regional Welfare party leaders to prison sentences ranging from 10 to 14 months and acquitted seven others–the state-run Anatolian news agency said.
Erbakan was banned from public life for five years in 2000 for "inciting hatred" for a speech he gave in 1994. His one-year prison sentence stemming from the conviction was suspended later that year after the government passed a general amnesty.
Muslim Turkey’s powerful military–self-appointed guardian of the country’s secularism–launched a crackdown on political Islam after pressuring Erbakan to resign from office in 1997.
Parliament’s main opposition–the Islamist Virtue party–was banned last year for threatening to undermine the secular order.