November 20, 2009 / 3:25 PM / 10 years ago

Turkey probes fresh allegations of anti-govt plot

* Plot targeted non-Muslim minorities, media says

* Fresh government-secularist strains possible

* Plan reportedly envisaged bombings, assassinations



By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Turkey is investigating a suspected plot by Naval officers to attack non-Muslim minorities to discredit the ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party, the prime minister’s office said on Friday.

The alleged plan, one of several reported in Turkish media, could add to strains between the secularist military and the government, which is already at odds with the judiciary.

Investors are becoming increasingly concerned by the potential for instability in a country where the military has ousted four governments in 50 years and which is now bidding for European Union membership, although markets did not to react to news of the latest alleged plot. [ID:nLK311450]

However earlier this week shares, the lira and bonds were hit by fears that a row over a probe into government-sanctioned wiretapping of judges and prosecutors could eventually result in a bid to ban the ruling AK Party.

The party narrowly survived an attempt in the Constitutional Court to ban it more than a year ago.

The armed forces said it had filed a criminal complaint with the Justice Ministry over the media report on the plot first published in the Taraf newspaper on Thursday.

The military has previously described documents backing similar stories in the past as fake, and says there is a smear campaign.

The alleged "Cage Operation Action Plan" involved bomb attacks, kidnappings and assassinations against non-Muslims, which would then be blamed on Islamist militants, the Islamic-leaning Zaman newspaper reported on Friday in a front page article headlined: "A plan to finish Turkey off.



NON-MUSLIMS SAID TARGETED

Frictions between the secularist establishment and the AK Party have surfaced recurrently in recent times.Leaders of the AK Party once belonged to a Islamist party that was banned.

Although overwhelmingly Muslim, Turkey has a secular constitution and the military and the judiciary form the core of the secularist establishment. The AK Party denies having any agenda to change the system.

Turkish prosecutors are currently investigating a separate alleged plot that implicates retired and serving military officers to overthrow the AK Party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

They say these conspirators belong to a shadowy, nationalist group dubbed the "Ergenekon" network.

A judge suspended until Monday a hearing in the "Ergenekon" case after the ceiling partially collapsed in the court in Istanbul. [ID:nLK607065]

Inter faith violence is not unknown in Turkey. In 2007 three Christians had their throats slit by youths who burst into their Bible publishing house in the southeastern town of Malatya.

Christians number about 100,000 in a population of about 72 million. (Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Matthew Jones)



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