Istanbul’s chief prosecutor yesterday (14 July) announced indictments against 86 persons charged with forming a terrorist group to overthrow the government. The incident could be used by the ruling AKP as legal ammunition in its own court case in which secularsits are seeking to ban the party.
The group included leading figures from the army, business and the secular press, Prosecutor Aykut Cangiz Engin said, all accused of being members of the so-called Ergenekon group. This organisation is accused of actively fighting the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose AKP party has Islamic roots and is currently struggling to prevent its closure over accusations that it is attempting to impose sharia law in Turkey.
The ruling in the AKP case, which includes charges against 71 party officials and more than 30 MPs, is expected within the next few weeks and is being closely scrutinised by the EU, which has repeatedly stated that a ban on the party would be undemocratic and could deal a serious blow to the country’s EU aspirations.
The spokeswoman of Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, Krisztina Nagy, earlier commented on the Ergenekon case by saying: “The Commission is following this case very closely. We expect the case to be pursued in accordance with international best practice in police investigations and judicial procedures.”
Erdogan is eager to link the AKP closure case with the Ergenekon case. He says the closure case was filed because of his determination to fight the group. On the other hand, government critics accuse him of using the investigation to suppress some of his most vocal opponents.
48 of the suspects are already being held in custody, while the remaining 38 were temporarily released. The court must now decide within two weeks whether to open the case against them.
The military is known as the guardian of secularism and in the past has already staged various coups to overthrow the government, the last one of which, in 1980, was followed by intense street fighting between leftists and nationalists. In 1997, Islamist Prime Minister Necmetting Erbakan was forced to step down following pressure from the military, which considered itself compelled to defend the country’s secular roots.