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Turkish court allows assassination case to be merged with coup plot prosecution

[JURIST] Turkey's Eleventh Criminal Court in Ankara on Monday granted permission for a case involving the 2006 killing of a senior judge by lawyer Alparslan Aslan to be merged with a larger case against alleged Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder] coup leaders. Ergenekon is accused of planning to destabilize the country's Justice and Development Party (AKP) [official website, in Turkish] led government in an effort to incite a military coup. The court found that the judge's killing could have been part [UPI report] of the group's efforts [Hurriyet Daily News report], which also included the creation of a supposed "hit list" of prominent Turkish figures, bombings at the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet [media website, in Turkish], and the assassination of the journalist Hrant Dink. In order for the cases to be merged, the Thirteenth Criminal Court, which is hearing the Ergenekon case, must also approve the move. The Supreme Court had previously permitted the two cases to be joined, and if they are, they will be tried in Istanbul.

The court's decision comes after the arrest of eight professors and former university officials [NYT report] allegedly connected to Ergenekon on Friday. In March, 56 people were arrested in connection with the group [JURIST report], including two former generals. Earlier that month, a Turkish court ordered the arrest [JURIST report] of Cumhuriyet journalist Mustafa Balbay and internet publisher Neriman Aydin for their alleged involvement the coup plot. There are currently more than 100 suspects in custody, with 40 arrested January 7, another 12 arrested January 12, and 30 arrested January 19 [JURIST reports]. The suspects include journalists, academics, army officers, policemen, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [JURIST report]. In October the High Criminal Court in Istanbul began the trial [JURIST report] of 86 defendants allegedly involved in the coup plot.

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