By Delphine Strauss in Ankara
Published: January 8 2009 02:00 | Last updated: January 8 2009 02:00
An investigation of ultranationalists suspected of plotting to destabilise Turkey's government widened yesterday as police detained more than 30 people, including retired generals, serving officers, a former mayor of Istanbul and a previous chairman of the higher education board.
Eighty six people, many of them known for their secularist views and opposition to the ruling party, are already on trial charged with planning bombings and assassinations to provoke a coup against the Justice and Development party (AKP), which has its roots in political Islam.
Liberals initially hailed the investigation as a breakthrough in uncovering Turkey's so-called "deep state", believing that a network of nationalists with connections in the military and bureaucracy have long been willing to act outside the law to pursue political aims.
Turkey's military chiefs held a meeting at the general staff headquarters yesterday evening, Turkish television reported, raising the possibility of a reaction from the powerful armed forces.
Gareth Jenkins, a security analyst based in Istanbul, said the detention of more retired generals risked provoking a reaction.
Yesterday's detentions and police searches will redouble criticism by those who say the case is a witch-hunt against government opponents. Among those held was Tuncer Kilinc, former chairman of the national security council involved in the 1990s in military intervention against political Islam, according to Turkish media reports
Opposition party leaders said the police action breached human rights and called it a "revenge operation" - although the AKP has previously been at pains to stress that it has no role in the investigation.