Trial begins for 56, including retired Turkish generals, in Ergenekon case
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News with wires | 7/20/2009 12:00:00 AM |
The second phase of the country’s controversial Ergenekon case started Monday as 56 people, including two retired Turkish generals, went on trial facing accusations of plotting a coup.
The prosecution wants life sentences against retired generals Şener Eruygur and Hurşit Tolon, who are accused of being senior leaders of an alleged ultra-nationalist gang named Ergenekon.
The generals are on trial along with 54 other suspects, charged in the same indictment, the second to emerge from the long-running probe into Ergenekon.
The suspects also include two senior journalists known as vocal government critics -- Mustafa Balbay, whose alleged diary mentions purported coup plots, and Tuncay Özkan.
Other prominent defendants are Sinan Aygün, head of the Ankara Trade Chamber, and the wife of a senior judge from the Constitutional Court.
Some 200 protestors demonstrated outside the courthouse at the heavily guarded Silivri prison outside Istanbul to brand the charges as a fabrication as the suspects appeared in the dock.
Eruygur, reported to be in poor health, was not present at Monday’s hearing, which dealt largely with procedural formalities.
[HH] Third indictment submitted
Ergenekon prosecutors submitted a third indictment for 52 other defendants, including prominent academics and active army officers, to the court later on Monday, bringing the total number of the charged to 194 in the controversial probe.
The 1,454-page long new indictment, which needs the court's approval, includes charges of attempts to topple the government and disrupt Parliament, membership in an armed terrorist group, possession of weapons, and stealing state secrets, the prosecutors said.
Eighty-six other suspects, charged of forming an illegal organization to provoke a series of events that would pave the way for a military coup, have been on trial since October.
The controversial Ergenekon case, which has fanned political tensions and sharply divided society, started after the discovery of 27 hand grenades on June 12, 2007, in a shanty house in Istanbul's Ümraniye district that belonged to a retired noncommissioned officer. The grenades were found to be the same ones used in the attacks on Cumhuriyet daily’s Istanbul offices in 2006.
The findings led to scores of detentions, putting almost 200 journalists, writers, politicians, army officers, academics and gang leaders under interrogation in what turned into a terror investigation that seeks to crack down on the alleged gang named Ergenekon.
Although initially hailed as a success, the Ergenekon probe has rekindled tensions between the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, supporters and its secularist opponents. Some say the investigation will shed light on anti-democratic forces at work in the country, while others accuse the AKP of using the probe to target opponents and discredit the military.