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Page last updated at 18:17 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 19:17 UK

Turkey 'plotters' trial resumes

Gate to Silivri district prison in Istanbul
The trial is being held at Silivri prison in Istanbul

The trial has resumed in Turkey of 86 people charged with involvement in armed unrest and aiding a terror group.

The suspects are accused of belonging to a shadowy ultra-nationalist network that allegedly plotted attacks to provoke a military coup.

But the hearing was limited to the 46 defendants held in custody, to avoid a repeat of chaotic scenes on Monday.

The trial may revive tensions between the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party and the secular military, analysts say.

The remaining 40 defendants - who are on bail - will give testimony in separate hearings.

The 2,455-page indictment holds the group - known as Ergenekon - responsible for at least two violent attacks - the bombing of a secularist newspaper in 2006 and an attack on a court the same year, in which a judge was killed.

Attacks on those key parts of the secular establishment were supposed to provoke Turkey's military into launching a coup in defence of secular interests, it is alleged.

The suspects deny the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

'Patriots'

Among the 86 suspects charged at the Silivri prison-court are retired army officers, politicians, academics and journalists.

To limit the number of lawyers... is a breach of the right of defence
Trial lawyer

They are alleged to be members of the Ergenekon group.

When the trial opened on Monday, the presiding judge asked spectators and reporters to leave the tiny courtroom, amid overcrowding and protests by defence lawyers that they could not work in such conditions.

Outside the courtroom, scores of demonstrators with Turkish flags held a protest rally. Many of them chanted: "The traitors are in parliament, the patriots are in prison."

As proceedings began to descend into disarray, the presiding judge decided to halt the trial and the court then imposed the restrictions on who would attend the first hearing.

A limit was also put on the number of lawyers, journalists and spectators who could be present in the courtroom, prompting some lawyers to complain that their clients' human rights had been impaired.

"To limit the number of lawyers when the indictment is 2,455 pages long and there are 450 folders of annexes is a breach of the right of defence," one lawyer told the court.

'Deep state'

The trial is unusual in a number of ways: the sheer size of it and the fact that the defendants include retired Turkish military officers, the BBC's Pam O'Toole says.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in parliament, 15 July 08
PM Erdogan insists his AK Party does not have an Islamist agenda

This is something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, given the power of the military, which has mounted three coups since 1960 and, in 1997, eased the country's first pro-Islamist prime minister from power, our correspondent says.

Then there is the nature and scope of the charges, some of which would not seem out of place in a Hollywood thriller, she adds.

But many Turks regard the trial as the latest stage in an ongoing power struggle between Turkey's secular nationalist establishment and the governing AKP.

Some believe this trial is the AKP's revenge for an attempt to have the party closed down by the Constitutional Court; others maintain the Ergenekon network simply does not exist.


SEE ALSO
'Deep state plot' grips Turkey
04 Feb 08 |  Europe
'Three hurt' in Istanbul blasts
07 Aug 08 |  Europe
Turkey faces bombing aftermath
28 Jul 08 |  Europe
Timeline: Turkey attacks
27 Jul 08 |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
19 Jul 08 |  Country profiles


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