Turks approve constitutional amendments

The ruling party, whose reforms have won backing from the EU, says the hardline emphasis on secularism and nationalism must be updated to incorporate democratic change, including religious freedoms. It lost a battle in 2008 when the Constitutional Court struck down a government-backed amendment lifting a ban on the wearing of Muslim headscarves in universities.

The constitutional amendments also would remove immunity from prosecution for the engineers of the 1980 coup. Kenan Evren, the military chief who seized power and became president, is 93 and ailing.

Many Kurdish politicians said they would not vote because the amendments did not specifically address discrimination toward that minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the population. Kurdish rebels announced a suspension of attacks a month ago, but that unilateral cease-fire is due to expire Sept. 20.

Fighting, however, has persisted. Last week, Turkish media said the military killed nine rebels. On Sunday, a bomb believed to have been planted by guerrillas killed two pro-government guards in Sirnak province, bordering Iraq, Anatolia news agency reported. A land mine also killed a soldier in neighboring Siirt province.

In unrest related to the referendum, masked protesters calling for a boycott hurled gasoline bombs at police and threw stones at a school used as a polling station in an Istanbul neighborhood, Dogan news agency reported. Police responded with pepper gas and chased protesters down side streets.

Similar protests were reported in the Mediterranean city of Mersin and the nearby town of Akdeniz. In the southeastern province of Batman, six police officers were injured and four people were detained in a protest linked to the vote.

Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser and Ceren Kumova in Ankara contributed to this report.

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