[QODLink]
Europe

Turkey police clash with trial protesters

Trial adjourned after police fire teargas to disperse supporters of 275 suspects accused of plotting coup.

Last Modified: 08 Apr 2013 20:12
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Turkish police have fired water cannon, teargas and pepper spray as they clashed with thousands of activists protesting outside a court in support of 275 people accused of plotting to topple the government.

Monday's turmoil prompted the court to adjourn the trial until Thursday.

Defendants in the trial of the "Ergenekon" group, an alleged underground network of secular arch-nationalists, had been expected to begin their final defences on Monday after prosecutors last month demanded life sentences for 64 of them.

Retired armed forces commander Ilker Basbug is among the defendants, including other military officers, politicians and academics, accused of attempting to stage a coup against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party government.

Demonstrators outside the court at the high-security Silivri jail near Istanbul waved Turkish flags and banners of left-wing and nationalist groups as they fought to break through police barriers.

"We are Mustafa Kemal's [Ataturk] soldiers," the crowd chanted, referring to modern Turkey's founder, who is a figurehead for Turkish secularists.

Most of the demonstrators were members of the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), which strongly criticises the trial for political influence on judiciary.

Trial adjourned

As police moved to disperse the crowd, strong winds blew pepper spray into the court, affecting defendants, journalists and dozens of opposition legislators who were among the spectators.

Most of the demonstrators were members of the
main opposition party [Irfan Bozan/Al Jazeera]

Chief judge Hasan Huseyin Ozese declined to launch the hearing given the chaotic scenes.

The four-year-old trial has drawn accusations of political influence over the judiciary. The process of defendants making their final defences is expected to take at least another two months, before a verdict is announced.

Ergenekon is allegedly behind much of the political violence, extra-judicial killings and bomb attacks which have troubled Turkey in recent decades, embodying anti-democratic forces which Erdogan says he has fought to stamp out.

'Deep State'

Critics see the case as a ploy to stifle opposition, part of a grand plan by the leader to tame the secularist establishment, including an army that intervened to topple governments four times in the second half of the 20th century.

Investigation of the alleged conspiracy, which surfaced in 2007 when police discovered a cache of weapons in Istanbul, was initially welcomed by a public eager to see an end to the "Deep State" - a shadowy network of secularists long believed to have been pulling the strings of power.

But dissenting voices have grown over the last four years, with the European Commission expressing concern about the handling of Ergenekon and other conspiracy trials.

Last September, a court in Silivri jailed more than 300 military officers in another trial for plotting to overthrow Erdogan's government.

473

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps will be released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.