Seven charged in Turkish coup plot

Istanbul, April 30: A veteran Turkish politician and a colonel were among seven people charged Thursday over a plot to discredit and topple the democratically elected government, risking life in jail, media reports said.

It was the seventh charge sheet to emerge from a probe into a purported network of soldiers and civilians which allegedly plotted to foment chaos and spark a coup against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The suspects include Bedrettin Dalan, a former Istanbul mayor, and Dursun Cicek, a colonel at the army headquarters.

Prosecutors argued that Dalan — who is abroad refusing to return — was among the network’s leaders and financiers, the NTV news channel said.

He allegedly aspired to take over as prime minister once the AKP, it said.

Colonel Cicek hit the headlines in June when the Taraf newspaper published a purported document bearing his signature and outlining a plan to discredit the AKP and its supporters.

Cicek insists the document is a fake and his signature has been forged.

The military, which is also investigating the document, said in March it had obtained “some evidence” that might prove the paper was genuine.

The plan outlined a strategy “to break popular support” for the AKP and the powerful brotherhood of cleric Fethullah Gulen on the ground they sought to undermine Turkey’s secular system, according to Taraf.

It said raids were planned on student houses run by the Gulen community in which “the discovery of weapons and munition will be ensured” to secure the brotherhood’s classification as an armed terrorist group.

The suspects will go on trial on June 28 on a series of charges, including “membership in a terrorist organisation” and “attempting to overthrow the government or prevent it from functioning,” Anatolia news agency reported.

The prosecution is seeking life sentences for Dalan and Cicek and jail terms ranging between seven and 57 years for the remaining suspects, it said.

Launched in 2007, the probe into the so-called Ergenekon network saw police dig up several weapons caches and was hailed by many as a success in a country where the military has unseated four governments in as many decades.