Turkish Government Cracks Down on Ergenekon Suspects, Arrests 18 Across Country

ANKARA (Aljazeera)–At least 18 people have been arrested in Turkey, including a university head and a media executive, in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the country’s Islamic-rooted government.

In raids across the country on Monday, police also searched the offices of two groups which took part in mass demonstrations against the government of the ruling AK Party in 2007, including the secular Ataturk Thought Association (ADD).

The arrests are part of an ongoing operation against the ultra-nationalist Ergenekon group, who prosecutors accuse of planning a campaign of bombings and attacks to force the army to step in and take power.

Nearly 150 people, including retired senior military officers, lawyers, academics and journalists, are currently on trial for their links to Ergenekon.

Government critics see the investigation into Ergenekon as revenge for a failed 2008 lawsuit to ban the AK Party on the grounds of anti-secular activities.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister and leader of the AK Party, denies the case is politically motivated.

Monday’s arrests included the detention of Mehmet Haberal, the head of Baskent University in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, and three former college heads in the Black Sea city of Samsun, in the eastern city of Malatya and in Bursa, west of Istanbul.

Universities have been bastions of the secularist elite, alongside the judiciary and the military, who resent the rise to power of the AK Party which has its roots in political Islam.

Police also detained Mustafa Yurtkuran, the acting chairman of the ADD, an organization which supports the secular ideas of Mustafa Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey

The group organized mass street protests in 2007 against the AK Party government’s attempt to lift a veto on the wearing of Muslim headscarves in universities.

Ergenekon came to light more than a year ago when explosives were discovered in a police raid on a house in Istanbul.

The military, which is widely respected in Turkey, has unseated four elected governments either in outright coups or by strong political pressure.

It has denied any links to Ergenekon.


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