ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) – Turkish police detained 24 people including two retired military commanders Tuesday during raids against an alleged network of extreme nationalists accused of plotting to topple the government, according to media reports.
Dozens of people have previously been detained during the yearlong probe into the alleged group whose members have been accused of provoking an armed rebellion against the government.
The two retired commanders are the highest ranking soldiers detained as part of the investigation into the group, known as “Ergenekon”.
The investigation was launched after hand grenades issued to security forces were seized in June 2007 at the Istanbul home of a retired military officer.
The arrests come amid political tension in Turkey, where the ruling party faces a legal attempt to close it down in what is seen as a dispute between pious Muslims in the government and the military-backed secular establishment. Retired generals Hursit Tolon and Sener Eruygur were detained at home early Tuesday, private CNN-Turk television said.
Eruygur, who is the head of a secularist, civilian group in Ankara was a major organizer in last year’s anti-government rallies, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest what they considered government attempts to undermine secularism.
Other detainees included the head of the chamber of trade in the Turkish capital of Ankara and a journalist known to be a fierce critic of the government, CNN-Turk said. Private Dogan news agency said police rounded up 24 people in Istanbul and Ankara.
In January, a court charged eight people with provoking an armed rebellion against the government. News reports said they were members of “Ergenekon” and were accused of plotting a series of bomb attacks and assassinations. Novelist Orhan Pamuk, who was prosecuted under a law banning insults to Turkish identity, and Kurdish leaders, seen by many Turks as a threat to national sovereignty, reportedly were on the Ergenekon hit list.