In a surprise move, a Turkish parliamentary committee voted Friday to send the corruption case of former Turkish prime minister Mesut Yilmaz to Turkey's supreme court, parliamentary sources said.
The committee voted nine to six to force Yilmaz and former trade and industry minister Yalim Erez to appear before the supreme court, but the move must be confirmed by an absolute majority of the full parliament later this month.
Yilmaz and Erez are accused of abuse of power in connection with the 1998 transfer of a state-owned property near the northwestern city of Izmit to the country's most important private industrial group, Koc Holding.
In exchange, Koc Holding allegedly invested in US carmaker Ford's Turkish operations.
Yilmaz is the head of the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP), the third partner in the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, along with Ecevit's center-left Democratic Left Party and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
MHP deputies on the committee voted with the opposition to force Yilmaz to appear before the supreme court, which is part of Turkey's constitutional high court.
Under Turkish law, any deputy convicted by the supreme court is permanently banned from political service.
The 53-year-old Yilmaz has put off accepting a post in Ecevit's government, formed in May 1999, until he has been cleared of all corruption charges being investigated by eight separate parliamentary commissions.
He has been cleared in five so far, while two others are still to announce their decisions.
The deciding factor in Friday's vote was a surprise move by the four MHP members who voted with the opposition to send Yilmaz to the Supreme Court.
Yilmaz's one-year coalition government collapsed in November 1998 when he lost a confidence vote in parliament following accusations of fraud as well as links with mafia groups and dubious businessmen.
ANAP Deputy chairman Ersin Taranoglu said Friday the commission decision was "a display of no-confidence" against the party.
"We believe that our (coalition) partners are as clean and honest as we are. That is why we joined this coalition. But if they do not think the same for us they should leave the government," Taranoglu told the Anatolia news agency.
The MHP emerged as Turkey's second-biggest party from the general elections last year having highlighted anti-corruption pledges in its campaign -- ANKARA (AFP)
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