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Monday, October 20, 2008

Turkey begins trial for alleged coup suspects
Devin Montgomery at 2:38 PM ET

[JURIST] The High Criminal Court in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday began the trial [Turkish Daily News report] of 86 defendants accused of attempting to destabilize and overthrow the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website]. The accused are said to belong to the secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder] group, believed responsible for bombing the headquarters of the newspaper Cumhuriyet [newspaper website, in Turkish], assassinating Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], and planning other attacks to provoke a military coup to topple the AKP. Among those on trial are journalists, intellectuals, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [personal website, in Turkish; JURIST report]. Shortly after the trial began on Monday, protests disrupted the proceedings, causing them to be temporarily suspended. The trial is scheduled to resume on Thursday when the presiding judge will consider a defense motion that he be removed for bias. BBC News has more. Anatolian Agency has local coverage.

When the defendants in the case were indicted in July, the court's chief prosecutor said that he planned to make additional indictments, but that the trials for those suspects [JURIST reports] would be held separately. Critics allege that the AKP has improperly investigated secular groups as part of a drive to impose Islamic principles [Ha'aretz report] in violation of the country's secular constitution [text], and that the link between the group and the alleged plots is weak [Hürriyet op-ed]. In March, Turkish Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya petitioned the country's Constitutional Court to disband the AKP [JURIST report] for allegedly working to undermine the nation's secular principles. The Court rejected his bid [JURIST report] in August.

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