GeriGündem Turkish court refuses to release controversial Ergenekon detainees
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Turkish court refuses to release controversial Ergenekon detainees

Turkish court refuses to release controversial Ergenekon detainees
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A panel of judges refused on Thursday to grant bail to 46 people standing trial on charges of membership to a group that allegedly plotted to overthrow Turkey's Islamist-rooted government.

The judges rejected the demands of defense lawyers, ruling there was no grounds to free the defendants, and adjourned the trial until Oct. 27.

The defendants, including former army officers, journalists, and a former university dean, have denied the charges arguing the trial is political and was instigated by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government to silence its critics.

The judges also scrapped an earlier decision to try the 46 separately from another 40 defendants released on bail, saying all 86 people accused in the complex and politically charged case will now be tried together.

Thursday's hearing at a prison complex in Istanbul’s Silivri district on the coast of the Sea of Marmara was largely procedural with court officials confirming the identities of the suspects standing trial.

The trial threatened to descend into farce amid procedural delays and protests from defendants’ lawyers.

There were protests from the defense when the judge indicated he would have the indictment read out in court as tradition requires, a procedure which, legal experts say, could take up to a month.

"We will set a record in world judicial history by reading out the longest ever charge sheet," attorney Ceyhan Mumcu, who represents Dogu Perincek, chairman of the small, Labor Party, complained.

Ergenekon, one of the most controversial cases in modern Turkish history, has divided the public into three camps.

One camp believes the case is being used as a cover by the government to suppress its opponents, while another camp, mostly pro-AKP experts and media organs, say the case is a major step in efforts to enhance Turkey's democracy.

The third camp, mostly academics and experts, believe the trial would not result in any concrete gains for democracy as the indictment for the case is weak.

Those indicted to stand trial will answer about 30 separate charges in the 2,455-page document, ranging from membership to a "terrorist organization" and instigating an armed uprising against the government, to arson and illegal possession of weapons.

The trial at the heavily-guarded Silivri prison on the outskirts of Istanbul is expected to take months to complete.

The Ergenekon operation started in June 2007 with the discovery of grenades in a house in Istanbul’s Umraniye district. Since then over one hundred people have been detained in eight waves of arrests in the controversial operation.

Another indictment would be submitted for those detained in the latest three waves of the operation, including two retired generals, journalists, a business group leader and an actress.


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