March 25, 2009 / 12:47 PM / 10 years ago

Turkish court agrees to hear coup plot case

ANKARA, March 25 (Reuters) - A Turkish court agreed on Wednesday to hear a case against 56 more people accused of plotting to topple Turkey’s government, including two retired generals for whom prosecutors are seeking life in prison.

The probe into the shadowy ultra-nationalist Ergenekon group has rattled financial markets and increased political tensions between the Islamist-rooted AK Party government and secularists, including the military, in the European Union-candidate country.

Anatolian state agency said the court will hear the case on July 20, when it will decide whether to merge it with that of 86 other people already on trial for their links to Ergenekon.

Prosecutors accuse Ergenekon of aiming to sow chaos with a campaign of bombings and assassinations in order to force the army to step in against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party government, which has its roots in political Islam.

The AK Party first came to power in 2002, breaking the grip of the traditional secularist establishment which ran Turkey for decades.

The military has unseated four elected governments in the predominantly Muslim NATO country either in outright coups or by strong political pressure. It has denied any links to Ergenekon.

Among those named in the indictment accepted by the court on Wednesday were General Sener Eruygur, a former commander of the gendarmerie forces, and retired General Hursit Tolon, a former army commander.

Eruygur faces charges of founding a terrorist organisation and of attempting to oust the parliament. Tolon faces charges of founding and directing a terror organisation.

The case has broken taboos in Turkey, where the military has enjoyed virtual immunity from prosecution in the past.

The Ergenekon group first came to light more than a year ago when a cache of explosives was discovered in a police raid on an Istanbul house.

Some observers see the investigation, which has targeted many government critics, as revenge for a failed 2008 court case to ban the AK Party for anti-secular activities. The party rejects this. (Editing by Richard Balmforth)



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