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Turkish general, prosecutor charged over Ergenekon coup plot

[JURIST] Turkish prosecutors have charged [Anatolian report, in Turkish] an army general and a state prosecutor with belonging to the Ergenekon [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] network and plotting to uproot Turkey's ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish], according a Monday report by state news agency Anatolian [media website, in Turkish]. General Saldiray Berk [official profile, in Turkish] and prosecutor Ilhan Cihaner were arrested last month in the eastern province of Erzincan following the extensive probe into the secular Ergenekon network. A 61-page indictment charged Berk and Cihaner with plotting to discredit the AKP and other Islamic networks in Erzincan. Berk, the first currently serving officer to face trial in connection with the secular group, was specified as the head of a local Ergenekon group with Cihaner acting as a key collaborator. Cihaner's arrest has increased tensions [Reuters report] between the judiciary and the government, after threats from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish; JURIST news archive] on Sunday to seek a public referendum [JURIST report] if a constitutional amendment to curb the power of judges cannot be reached.

The indictment of Berk and Cihaner follows last week's arrests and charges of more than 30 military officers in connection with a separate plot [JURIST report] to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government. The arrests and charges began after the newspaper Taraf [media website, in Turkish] revealed the 2003 Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish], or "Sledgehammer plot," in January. The plot included detailed plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane as part of an effort to undermine the government. The Sledgehammer plot [JURIST report] is similar to the Ergenekon conspiracy, in which the secular group is suspected of planning to overthrow [JURIST report] the AKP. The Ergenekon group is also alleged to be involved in bombings, political assassination plots, and the death of journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary]. The probe into the Ergenekon conspiracy has been criticized as an attempt by the AKP to silence opposition and further its imposition of Islamic principles [DPA report; JURIST report] in violation of Turkey's secular constitution [text]. Trials against the Ergenekon group [JURIST report] opened two years ago with more than 200 suspects in custody. The suspects include journalists, academics, army officers, policemen, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [JURIST report].

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