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Patriarch murder plot merged with Ergenekon case in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 5/5/2011 12:00:00 AM |

The trial of a man accused of plotting to assassinate Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew has been merged with the first Ergenekon coup-plot case.

The trial of a man accused of plotting to assassinate Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew has been merged with the first Ergenekon coup-plot case pending at the 13th High Criminal Court.

At the last hearing of the attempted-murder case, prosecutor Selim Berna Altay requested the two cases be merged, saying there are both legal and actual connections between them.

The man accused in the assassination plot, Ismet Rençber, did not attend that hearing, held at the Istanbul 9th High Criminal Court, but his lawyer Melissa Aslanözcanan asked for the cases to remain separate.

The court ruled in favor of Altay’s argument, meaning the next hearing of Rençber’s case will be held at the 13th High Criminal Court. He is facing a prison sentence of between 7.5 and 15 years on charges of “being a member of armed organization.”

The indictment includes an anonymous notice sent to the Istanbul Governor’s Office that describes alleged plans for the assassination of six rabbis and says Rençber has been chosen for the assassination of the Istanbul patriarch.

Ergenekon suspect Gürbüz Çapan has been accused of organizing the attempt on Bartholomew’s life.

According to the indictment, released following an investigation, police discovered that Rençber had made some phone calls to find the numbers of various rabbis, who he then called and asked for a job. The calls evoked suspicion among the rabbis and synagogue officials filed a complaint against Rençber, according to police reports.

Police arrested Rençber, who is from the eastern city of Kars, upon his arrival in Istanbul on June 23, 2010.

Rençber, who was arrested at the home of a relative in Istanbul, told police during his testimony that he “hated Jews” but denied intending to kill members of the Jewish community.

Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem in society. It is an alleged extension of the “deep state,” an unofficial organization within the state that has operated beyond the authority of elected governments since the beginning of the Cold War.

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