Turkish journalists on trial for alleged coup plot

[JURIST] Trial began Tuesday for 13 journalists accused of plotting to overthrow the Islamic government in Turkey. The trial lasted only four hours before being adjourned to await a decision from Turkey's high court about whether the presiding judge can hear the case amid allegations by the defense counsel that the judge lacks impartiality [AP report]. After re-convening December 26, the court will decide whether the journalists, who have been in jail for nine months, will be released. Two of the defendants are accused of being part of Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], a secular group suspected of planning to overthrow [JURIST report] the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. The 13 journalists claim that the charges are no more than an attempt to silence opposition based on allegedly fabricated evidence [BBC report]. However, the government maintains that the charges are based solely on the defendants' criminal activities and not the writings or words of the journalists. The case has sparked division in Turkey over media rights in the country.

In August, a Turkish court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for seven generals and admirals accused of creating anti-government websites in 2009. A number of other senior military officials are in detention for a separate investigation of the Balyoz Security Operation Plan (also known as "Operation Sledgehammer") [Taraf report, in Turkish; JURIST news archive], a military plot to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government. The "Sledgehammer" plot is similar to the Ergenekon conspiracy. The Ergenekon group is alleged to be involved in bombings, political assassination plots and the death of journalist Hrant Dink. 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 [JURIST report] in violation of Turkey's secular constitution. Trials against the Ergenekon group [JURIST report] opened over two years ago with more than 200 suspects in custody.

 

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