Turkish police have arrested dozens of people, including former army officers, lawyers, journalists and religious leaders, allegedly involved in a planned coup d’etat against the government.
According to Turkish media reports, the suspects come from a nationalist organisation called Ergenekon and are alleged to have planned political murders and bomb attacks in a bid to replace the government in 2009.
Thirty-three suspects linked to the Ergenekon operation, including retired general Veli Kucuk, were arrested on Tuesday. Controversial nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, who filed lawsuits against Turkish writers and intellectuals, was also detained in the police swoop.
On Wednesday, the police conducted searches at the office of attorney Kerincsiz and the office of the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate as well as at several other places related to the suspects.
The nationalist gang is suspected of involvement in several of violent attacks in Turkey, including the murder of an Italian priest in 2006, the assassination of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and the murder of three Christians in the city of Malatya in 2007.
The group was also reported to have been planning the murder of Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk who divides his time between the US and Turkey.
Turkish media reports said the suspects had been taken to hospital for a routine checkup but had not yet been formally charged.
Media reports said the 33 suspects had been accused of having “obtained secret information, revealed state secrets, taken part in the creation of a terrorist group”.
According to the Turkish daily, Sabah, a lengthy investigation had produced 460 telephone intercepts and 40 house searches in the cities of Istanbul, Bursa and Smirne.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the police action showed Turkey’s determination to bring an end to state and military-linked gangs
Erdogan said his government had been successful in fighting gangs and organised crime.
“This has been ongoing for four to five years. In addition to our security forces there is also a process that the judiciary has been conducting,” he said.
“This is something we are happy about. This last incident concerning such crimes has shown in the clearest way that the executive branch and the judiciary are working in a wonderful solidarity.”
Turkish media said the police had been observing the actions of the suspects for at least eight months as part of an investigation into a house full of explosives and ammunition found in Ä°stanbul’s Umraniye district.
Daily newspaper, Today’s Zaman, said documents obtained by the police during the raid confirm that in the past two years the suspects considered assassinating Osman Baydemir, a member of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), the mayor of the mainly Kurdish southeastern province DiyarbakÄ±r.