ANKARA, April 30: A Turkish prosecutor has rejected a demand to investigate the wives of the president and prime minister for wearing an Islamic headscarf at official functions, media reports said Thursday.
A women's group had complained that Hayrünnisa Gül, the wife of President Abdullah Gül, and Emine Erdoğan, spouse of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, committed a crime by attending official visits abroad and national day ceremonies at home while wearing a religious garment with a heavy political meaning.
The Ankara prosecutor said there was no grounds for an investigation since the Turkish penal code did not define the alleged transgressions as a crime, the reports said.
Turkey, which has a strictly secular system, bans civil servants and students from wearing the Islamic headscarf in state offices, high schools and universities. The military also keeps the garb out of its compounds.
Hardline secularists see the garment as a symbol of defiance against the secular system.
But there is no specific rule banning the garment from daily life.
The leaders' wives cover their hair with stylish headscarves on account of their religious beliefs.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, says the ban on the garment violates freedom of conscience.
In 2008, the party pushed through Parliament a constitutional amendment to lift a ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf on university campuses, overriding criticism from secularist opponents.
The country's top court annulled the law on the grounds that it breached the country's secular principles.