Turkish Police Detain 24 in Coup Probe as Prosecutor Seeks to Ban Ruling PartyBy VOA News
01 July 2008

Turkish police have detained at least 24 people suspected of belonging to an anti-government network as the country's chief prosecutor opened a case seeking to ban Turkey's ruling party.

Police escort retired army commander Hursit Tolon after a medical check in Ankara, Turkey, 01 Jul 2008Turkish media report those detained are accused of belonging to Ergenekon, an ultranationalist group that allegedly wants to discredit Turkey's Islamic-rooted government. The suspects include two retired generals, Hursit Tolon and Sener Eruygur, and a journalist, Mustafa Balbay, who works for a secular newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the detentions are linked to a long-running investigation into the group. Authorities have detained dozens of people in connection with the probe.

Tuesday's detentions came as Turkey's Constitutional Court began hearing arguments against the governing Justice and Development (AK) party.

Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya petitioned the court in March, saying the AK party should be dissolved because it threatens Turkey's secular principles.

AK has denied the charges and calls the petition anti-democratic. The party's defense is expected to make its oral arguments Thursday.

Prosecutors also are calling for about 70 AK party members, including Mr. Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, to be barred from politics.

The European Union has criticized the proposed ban, warning that the case may interfere with Turkey's long-term goals of joining the EU.

Turkish secularists have criticized the AK for alleged attacks on Turkey's secular system, including easing restrictions on religious symbols such as Islamic headscarves.

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