World News : A Turkish court will on Monday deliver its verdict in the trial of 275 people including a former army chief accused of plotting to overthrow the country’s Islamic-rooted government.
Among the defendants in the massive case — seen as a key test in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s showdown with secularist and military opponents — are ex-military chief Ilker Basbug and other army officers as well as lawyers, academics and journalists.
They face dozens of charges, ranging from membership of an underground “terrorist organisation” dubbed Ergenekon to arson, illegal weapons possession, and instigating an armed uprising against Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002.
Basbug, who led the army between 2008 and 2010, rejects all the charges against him. Turkey’s secular opposition has denounced the lengthy trial, which began in 2008, as a witch hunt aimed at silencing government critics.
The 2,455-page indictment accuses members of Ergenekon — an alleged shadowy network of ultranationalists trying to seize control in Turkey — of a string of attacks and political violence over several decades to stir up unrest.
They include a shooting at Turkey’s top administrative court in 2006 which killed a judge and which the state prosecutor believes was instigated by a retired general, and a grenade attack against the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper’s Istanbul headquarters blamed on the army command that same year.
Pro-government circles have praised the Ergenekon trial as a step towards democracy in Turkey, where the army violently overthrew three governments in 1960, 1971 and 1980. AFP