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    Turkey's Ergenekon trial on alleged coup plan adjourned to Thursday

    HotNewsTurkey Staff
    20.10.2008 - 09:11 | Son Güncelleme: 20.10.2008 - 18:01

    The first day of hearings in Turkey's controversial Ergenekon case ended on Monday. (UPDATED)

    The 13. High Criminal Court in Istanbul on Monday adjourned the hearings to Thursday to examine the requests of lawyers and defendants.

    The court also ruled for the continued detainment of 46 suspects in the Ergenekon case, in which 86 people are accused of membership to a group that allegedly plotted to overthrow the country's Islamist-rooted government.  

     

    In a declaration made at the restart of the hearing, the judge said separate trials would be held for those in detention and those released pending prosecution, adding each of the suspects in the Ergenekon case would be represented by a maximum of three lawyers.  

     

    He also said the court would first hear the testimonies of the 46 suspects remanded in custody.  

     

    The judge ordered that a video screen be set up in an adjoining room for journalists and relatives of the defendants to watch the proceedings at the courtroom in a prison complex in Silivri, a town outside Istanbul.

     

    Tight security measures were taken in and around the building in the Silivri Prison.

     

    HEARING INTERRUPTED  

    The hearing was interrupted shortly after it began on complaints an overpacked courtroom that would not allow for a proper trial as dozens of spectators, supporters of the 86 suspects and journalists swarmed into the tiny courtroom in Silivri.

     

    Lawyers of the accused complained they did not have space even to use their laptop computers -- the charge sheet alone is about 2,500 pages long -- and protested that they could not work under such conditions, journalists who managed to enter the courtroom said.

     

    "I have been doing this job for 50 years and never saw such conditions," one of the lawyers said.

     

    Among the 86 suspects -- 46 of who are remanded in custody -- are retired army officers, leftist politicians, members of secularist associations, journalists, and academics who are known as the fierce opponents of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).     

     

    Hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the trial, waving Turkish flags and chanting: "The traitors are in parliament, the patriots are in prison."

     

    Protesters also carried billboards of two prominent retired four-star generals who are under arrest for alleged ties to the nationalist group, but are yet to be indicted.

     

    "This is the first time in world history such a comedy happens," Professor Kemal Alamdaroglu, a suspect in the trial, told reporters outside the court house.

     

    "What I had done as a rector were all in line with the constitution and laws. If I am accused it is because of that," he added.

     

    PUBLIC DIVIDED

    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 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.

     

    ADDITIONAL INDICTMENT AWAITED 

    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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