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Turkey police fire tear gas at protest over call for religious constitution

Pro-secular demonstration comes a day after Turkey's parliamentary speaker said the country 'must have a religious constitution'
Turkish policemen disperse demonstration outside the parliament in Ankara on Tuesday (AFP)

Turkish police on Tuesday fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who had gathered outside parliament to protest a call for the country to adopt a religious constitution.

Police broke up a group of more than 100 protesters, preventing them from making a press declaration outside the parliament in Ankara, an AFP photographer reported.

The group chanted the slogan "Turkey will remain secular."

Several protesters were detained by police, the photographer reported. Similar protests were also expected in other cities.

Parliament speaker Ismail Kahraman said on Monday that the predominantly Muslim country "must have a religious constitution," adding to concerns of creeping Islamisation under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"Why should we be in a situation where we are in retreat from religion?" he said.

But the head of parliament's constitution commission, AKP member Mustafa Sentop, said no discussions were under way to remove secularism from the constitution.

The speaker was "not speaking on behalf of his party," he said.

The leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said a secular constitution was essential to guarantee freedom of religion.

"Secularism is a guarantor of all faiths. It means freedom of religion and conscience.

"Look at the Middle East. You still haven't learnt the lesson," he said in comments addressed to Kahraman.

"Secularism also means religion not being exploited politically," he said.

Since the AKP's re-election in November, the government has said it wants to prioritise replacing Turkey's constitution, inherited from a military junta after a coup in 1980. 

Several rounds of negotiations have failed - most recently in February - with the opposition rejecting the increasingly powerful role of the presidency under Erdogan.