Three charged in Turkey coup probe

ISTANBUL, April 25, 2009 (AFP) - An Istanbul court on Saturday charged one former and two serving navy officers in connection with a cache of weapons thought to be linked to an alleged plot to overthrow Turkey's Islamist-rooted government, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The suspects were a retired major, and a serving lieutenant colonel and major, the report said.

The court charged them with "membership of a terrorist organisation," violation of the law on fire arms and unlawful possession of dangerous material. They were remanded in custody pending trial.

The charges came after police unearthed a large cache of weapons and grenades on a plot of land outside Istanbul that had been used by the army for training for more than 10 years.

Police said Saturday that they had discoeverd 22 light anti-tank weapons, 24 hand grenades, more than 3,000 bullets and various explosives in an excavation which began Tuesday.

It was the second arms cache found as part of a probe into a nationalist-secularist network called Ergenekon that allegedly aimed to discredit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and incite a military coup against it.

The first excavation in a forest outside Ankara in January resulted in the discoverey of two light anti-tank weapons, 10 hand grenades and bullets.

The Ergenekon investigation, which began in June 2007, has fuelled tensions between the AKP and its hardcore secularist opponents which largely suspect the party of undermining the country's secular order.

Eighty-six people -- retired army officers, politicians, journalists and underworld figures -- have been on trial since October in the case, on accusations of belonging to Ergenekon and of plotting to topple the government.

Last month, the prosecutors indicted 56 other people, among them two retired generals accused of drawing up and leading a plot to oust the AKP.

They are expected to appear before a court on July 20, when judges will decide whether to merge their case with that of those already on trial.

The Ergenekon investigation was initially hailed as a success, but came under increasing fire for targeting journalists, academics and intellectuals known to be critics of the government.

The AKP is accused by some of using the probe as a revenge against political opponents for a failed bid last year to have the Islamist-rooted party outlawed for alleged anti-secular activity.

Source: AFP

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