Turkey: Erdogan speaks a few words in Kurdish

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Jan 12 15:28:04 UTC 2009

Turkey coup plot arrests now at more than 100
By SELCAN HACAOGLU Associated Press Writer

Jan 11th, 2009 | ANKARA, Turkey -- A Turkish court formally arrested
14 more people Sunday for ties to an alleged secularist plot by
ultranationalists to bring down the Islamic-rooted government,
bringing the total of people involved in the case to more than 100.
The prime minister said the crackdown will shed light on a network of
renegade agents within the state and make Turkey transparent. Critics
say it is designed to silence the government's opponents. The case
highlights a difficult question about who holds the levers of power in
a nation where tensions between secularists and Islamists, and
liberals and rightists, have created deep fault lines in the country.
The problem is aggravated by key demands from the European Union --
which Turkey hopes to join -- to reduce the military's influence in
politics, make security officials accountable for torture and grant
more rights to the country's Kurds.

Over the weekend, an Istanbul anti-terror court formally arrested and
jailed 18 coup plot suspects, including a former police chief and four
active duty military officers. Fourteen of the 18 were arrested
Sunday. Police detained another 33 suspects in the case Sunday and
displayed confiscated weapons. Prosecutors say the plot aimed to
destabilize Turkey through a series of attacks and trigger a coup in
2009. There are already 86 suspects on trial in the case and they
include a top author, a political party leader, journalists, a former
university dean and a lawyer along with 16 retired military officers.
All were outspoken opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan's party -- which narrowly escaped a ban last year for
allegedly undermining the country's secular principles -- says it is
trying to strengthen democracy to steer the country toward EU
membership even as allegations mount from the secular opposition that
the government is using its power to silence critics. "Are you afraid
of seeing Turkey becoming more transparent? Are you afraid of efforts
to enlighten sinister incidents?" Erdogan shouted Sunday. "Turkey is

Erdogan has alarmed secularists for trying to lift the ban on Islamic
head scarves at universities, and nationalists for policies such as
launching the country's first 24-hour Kurdish-language television
station on Jan. 1. He uttered a few words in the once-banned tongue in
a marked shift policy toward Kurds. Turkey's military, an instigator
of coups in past decades, has warned that secular ideals are in peril,
though an armed intervention seems unlikely for now. But many officers
are uncomfortable with the government's Kurdish policy as they fight a
war against autonomy-seeking rebels that has killed nearly 40,000
people since 1984.

The coup plot case underlines a widening divide between the country's
growing Islamic class and secularists. The roots of the conflict lie
in the era of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and
early 20th century war hero who viewed Islam as an impediment to
modern development and a symbol of the ills of the Ottoman Empire.
Ataturk imposed a secular system with an authoritarian streak,
restricting religious dress, education and practices.

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