ANKARA - Turkey's Islamist-rooted ruling party Thursday presented its final defence in the country's highest court against charges that it had sought to undermine the secular system and should be closed down. The hearing at the Constitutional Court, which lasted more than six hours behind closed doors, was the last opportunity the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had to refute the charges before the 11 judges reach a verdict. The case is the latest episode in a bitter struggle between secularist forces and the AKP, which won a decisive re-election victory last year despite a divisive campaign that focused on the party's alleged Islamist leanings. The court will now appoint a rapporteur to pen a non-binding recommendation on a verdict. The judges will then set a date to debate the case behind closed doors before making a ruling. "We do not want this case to drag on, but it is up to the court to draw up the timetable" for a verdict, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek told reporters after the hearing. Cicek and senior AKP lawmaker Bekir Bozdag - both of them lawyers - represented the party. He declined to give details on what arguments they pressed, saying only that the defence was based on the European Convention of Human Rights, among other legal norms, and maintained the case should not have been opened at all. The case has been advancing amid simmering political tensions following a police operation against a shadowy anti-government grouping Tuesday, which saw 21 suspects, along them two retired generals and senior journalists, detained by police. The mass-circulation Sabah daily said Thursday that documents seized in the operation indicated the group was about to activate a plan to gradually destabilize the country and oust Erdogan's government. Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya launched the case against the AKP in March, saying the party should be banned for seeking to replace Turkey's secular system with Shariat law. Yalcinkaya, who argued his case in the court on Tuesday, has also asked that 71 AKP officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, be barred from party politics for five years. The AKP, which has its roots in a now banned Islamist movement, has rejected all the charges as "fictional" and politically motivated. Analysts say the chances of the AKP being banned has increased since the Constitutional Court last month scrapped a government-sponsored constitutional amendment lifting a ban on the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in universities. The amendment, which the court said violates the principle of secularism, was cited by Yalcinkaya as evidence of the AKP's assault on the separation of state and religion. The constitution gives the court the option to cut treasury aid to a party it finds guilty instead of outlawing it, but analysts say the possibility of such a ruling in the AKP case is weak. The court has banned 24 parties - among them AKP's predecessors - since its establishment in 1963, but has never taken such a move against a governing party.