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Turkish court combines judge killing, coup cases

[JURIST] The Turkish Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a lawyer accused of killing a judge and merged the case with the trial of a right-wing group accused of plotting a coup. Alparslan Arslan was sentenced to life in prison in February for the May 2006 killing of Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin in protest of a February 2006 ruling [JURIST reports] by the court permitting a school to deny promotion to a teacher because she wore a religious headscarf. Arslan's case will be merged with the trial of 86 defendants accused of attempting to destabilize and overthrow the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website]. The accused are said to belong to the secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder] group, believed responsible for bombing the headquarters of the newspaper Cumhuriyet [newspaper website, in Turkish], assassinating Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], and planning other attacks to provoke a military coup to topple the AKP. The court found that the killing of the judge and the coup plot are related [Hurriyet report] and consolidated the cases. The issue will now be whether the case should be heard in Ankara [Today's Zaman report], where Arslan was originally convicted, or in Istanbul, where the coup trial is taking place.

The alleged members of Ergenekon were indicted [JURIST report] in July. Among them are journalists, intellectuals, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [personal website, in Turkish; JURIST report]. Two former generals were also arrested [JURIST report] in connection with the alleged plot. The trial began in October and resumed [JURIST reports] after being adjourned because of "chaos" in the courtroom.

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