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Officers held in Turkish coup probe
Army officers among 30 people detained over alleged plot to topple government.
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2009 19:01 GMT
Police block opposition politicians as they stand outside the entrance of ART television [AFP]

Army officers and a police chief are among 30 people arrested by Turkish police in an inquiry over an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Eight army officers and nine policemen, including special forces officers, were detained in pre-dawn raids across the country on Thursday.

One of the most prominent suspects detained was the chairman of the largest union in the metal industry, Mustafa Ozbek.

The investigation into the alleged coup, which began in 2007, is now criticised for targeting journalists, academics and retired generals critical of the government.

Thursday's raids were the third in one month, with police arresting more than 30 people in six provinces just last week.

Prosecutors say the detainees either belonged to or were linked to Ergenekon, a nationalist-secularist group that planned to assassinate politicians and prompt a military coup to oust the Justice and Development party (AK).  

Lieutenant sought

Unal Inanc, a journalist specialising in judicial affairs, and Erhan Goksel, a political analyst and the owner of a leading polling company, were also detained.

Police are searching the Ankara office of the private ART television station, an opponent of the AK, which has its roots in political Islam, and of the Turk Metal union headquarters.

Live footage showed police leading Ozbek out of his Ankara home amid protests from dozens of supporters outside.

The state-run Anatolian news agency said that a search was also under way for an army lieutenant in western Turkey. A regional police chief and an officer have been taken to Istanbul for questioning.

Hand grenades

The investigation into Ergenekon began when hand grenades were discovered in a property in Istanbul in June 2007.

Soldiers check barriers outside the Ergenekon trial in October [File: AFP]

In October last year, 86 people, including retired army officers, politicians, journalists and underworld figures went on trial, accused of belonging to a "terrorist organisation" and of plotting to overthrow the government.

The trial is ongoing and has caused much debate in Turkey. 

The investigation initially received support for countering the so-called "deep state," a term used to describe security forces acting outside the law, often in collusion with the criminal underworld, to protect what they see as Turkey's interests.

But many now charge that it has become a tool to "bully" government opponents following a failed attempt last year to have the AK banned for anti-secular activities.

Source:
Agencies
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