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Turkey Detains Ex-Generals

Turkey Detains Ex-Generals in Anti-Government Probe


July 1 

 Turkish police arrested 24 people, including two retired generals and the head of Ankara's main business lobby, on suspected links to a group of alleged coup plotters.

Retired generals Hursit Tolon and Sener Eruygur were detained early today in Ankara, a spokesman for the Ankara police said in a telephone interview. The spokesman said authorities had to break down the door of Tolon's home. Ankara Chamber of Commerce chief Sinan Aygun was also taken into custody, said Melih Cuhadar, a spokesman for the chamber.

The sweep came on the day prosecutors presented an indictment to the Constitutional Court to close down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party. They claim Erdogan wants to dismantle the secular state set up by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and make Turkey more like Iran.

``It seems the government is throwing down the gauntlet to the key players in the secular camp,'' said Erik Zurcher, a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands and author of ``Turkey: A Modern History.'' ``Perhaps it feels it has nothing left to lose because the party's closure will come anyway.''

The benchmark stock index had its biggest drop since March 17, as the political outlook rattled investors, said Orhan Canli, a trader at broker Is Yatirim in Istanbul. Bonds fell and the lira weakened.

Headscarf Ruling

The court ruled against Erdogan in a related case in June, striking down a law allowing women to wear Islamic-style headscarves at universities. The government, set to present its defense in two days, asserts the prosecution case rests on an ``anachronistic'' understanding of secularism.

Today's arrests create ``an environment of fear'' and resemble events in Iran prior to the Islamic revolution of 1979, main opposition Republican People's Party leader Deniz Baykal told his lawmakers in a televised meeting in Ankara.

Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, deputy chief of Erdogan's Justice and Development party, said that the independence of the police and judiciary to conduct their investigation should be respected, CNN Turk television reported.

Dozens of suspected members of a group of alleged plotters, including former military officers, were rounded up by police in January for possible involvement in bomb plots and other activities against the Turkish state.

Erdogan in March denied any links between the arrests and the closure case against his party.

Turkey's main stock index slumped 5.9 percent as of 2:55 p.m. in Istanbul. Bond yields on benchmark lira debt tracked by ABN Amro rose 24 basis points to 22.67 percent. The lira fell 1.2 percent against the dollar to 1.2408.

Protest Organizer

Retired General Eruygur, who was detained today, is the head of the Ataturk Thought Association, a pro-secular lobby group. The association organized street rallies attended by hundreds of thousands of people last year to protest parliament's appointment of former Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as president on grounds of his Islamist past.

Turkish police also arrested Mustafa Balbay, the Ankara bureau chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, Mutluhan Karagozoglu, a lawyer for the newspaper, said in a televised news conference in Ankara. Cumhuriyet's writers have accused the government of flouting Turkey's secular rules.

``I am accused of loving Ataturk and the republic,'' Aygun told reporters as he returned to the business group's headquarters in central Ankara, accompanied by police, who began searching his office, Cuhudar said.


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