Journalist arrested in Turkey coup probe

A senior Turkish journalist was arrested on Friday for suspected involvement in an alleged plot to overthrow the country’s Islamist-rooted government, Anatolia news agency reported.

Mustafa Balbay, the Ankara representative of the secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper, was first detained in July, but released after several days of questioning.

Known as a fierce government critic, he was reportedly close to retired generals, also accused of involvement in the alleged plot to topple the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which hardline secularists accuse of seeking to undermine Turkey’s secular system.

Balbay (48) had categorically denied after his first detention that he collaborated with the alleged plotters.

The investigation, which began in 2007 and has led to the discovery of several weapons caches, has stoked political tensions in Turkey, with critics charging that the government is using the probe to silence opponents.

Journalists, academics, intellectuals and trade unionists — all known as vocal government critics — have been either arrested or questioned, along with retired generals, soldiers and underworld figures.

The prosecutor argues the suspects either belonged to or supported Ergenekon, a nationalist-secularist group that planned to assassinate eminent figures to throw Turkey into political chaos and prompt a military coup.

In October, 86 people went on trial, accused of belonging to a terrorist group and of plotting to topple the government.

With their trial under way, the prosecutor is still continuing the probe and several dozen more suspects are awaiting formal charges.

The probe initially received widespread support for countering the so-called “deep state” — a term used to describe security forces acting outside the law, often in collision with the underworld, to protect what they see as Turkey’s best interests.

But many now charge the probe has become an instrument for the government to bully opponents in revenge for a failed legal bid last year to have the AKP banned for anti-secular activity — a charge the government denies. — Sapa-AFP

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