World News

General and prosecutor charged in Turkey plot case

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish prosecutors have charged a serving army general and a state prosecutor with plotting to destabilize the Islamist-rooted AK Party government, the state-run Anatolian news agency said late on Monday.

General Saldiray Berk, commander of the 3rd Army based in the eastern province of Erzincan, is the first serving officer to face trial in connection with the so-called ultra-nationalist “Ergenekon” organization, according to Turkish media.

Ilhan Cihaner, a state prosecutor who had investigated Islamic networks in the provinces, was arrested last month.

Cihaner’s arrest caused a dispute between the judiciary and the government, which has threatened to call a referendum to push through constitutional changes to curb the power of judges.

The two men are charged with plotting to discredit the AK Party and Islamist networks in Erzincan, according to the 61-page indictment, Anatolian said.

Turkish media had reported the plot, unveiled in June by the newspaper Taraf which described plans to foment nationalist opposition to the government and plant weapons in houses used by associates of influential Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen to suggest the religious movement was involved in militant activities.

More than 200 people, including retired generals, lawyers and journalists, have been charged in connection with Ergenekon.

Prosecutors accuse the group of planning to cause chaos through a campaign of violence to justify a military takeover.

Critics of the AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam and first came to power in 2002, say the government is using the investigation to hound secularist opponents.

Separately, more than 30 officers including two retired generals, face charges in connection with another plot to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

The detention of senior members of the secularist armed forces has shaken financial markets in a country where the military has a long history of intervention in politics.

Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Andrew Dobbie