Image: Protesters carry a banner with the portraits of defendants in coup plot
Fatih Saribas  /  Reuters file
Protesters carry a banner bearing the portraits of leading defendants on trial for allegedly plotting a coup in Turkey during a demonstration outside Silivri prison, west of Istanbul, on October 20, 2008.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/7/2009 11:06:01 AM ET 2009-01-07T16:06:01

Turkish police detained more than 30 people — including three retired generals — in a widening probe into an alleged plot by secularists to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government, according to reports Wednesday.

Eighty-six people are on trial for alleged involvement in a shadowy nationalist group and plotting an armed uprising.

The Anatolia news agency reported police detained more than 30 other people suspected of involvement in the plot for questioning in simultaneous raids in six cities Wednesday. Authorities said those detained include senior retired military officers, a retired police chief and a pro-secular writer.

The defendants in the coup plot case, which has added to political uncertainty, are accused of planning assassinations and bombings to sow chaos and force the military to step in.

The military, which has unseated four governments in the last 50 years and views itself as the guarantor of Turkey's secular order, denies any link to the group, known as Ergenekon .

But critics of the ruling AK Party say Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government is using the case as revenge for court moves by the secular establishment last year to outlaw the party for anti-secular activities. The AK Party denies any link.

Witch hunt?
Fuelling charges the AK Party is launching a witch hunt against opponents, police in the capital Ankara searched the home of a former prosecutor known for his anti-government views.

Sabih Kanadoglu, who has accused the government of pushing the country toward a "religious dictatorship," was behind a court decision that prevented parliament from electing Abdullah Gul as president in 2007. He was later elected in a referendum.

Last month, Turkey's top appeals court ordered that a trial over the 2006 killing of a top judge in Ankara be merged with the Ergenekon trial, for which hearings are being held daily and which is expected to take months to complete.

More on Turkey

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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