Several thousand people have demonstrated in Istanbul in support of an investigation into an alleged coup plot against Turkey's Islamist-rooted government.
AFP - Several thousand people demonstrated in Istanbul Saturday in support of an investigation into an alleged coup plot against Turkey's Islamist-rooted government.
"We want freedom! Try coup leaders," read banners held aloft by the protestors, who wore white gloves, blew on whistles and banged on drums, an AFP photographer said.
Police estimated some 5,000 people attended the protest at the Istiklal Avenue, the main commercial street on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait which divides the city.
The demonstration -- organized by a coalition of leftist and Islamist civic organizations -- came two days before 56 suspects, among them two retired generals, go on trial on coup charges as part of the probe.
The case has fanned political tensions and sharply divided society.
The prosecution wants life sentences against the generals -- Sener Eruygur and Hursit Tolon -- for masterminding several coup plots against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which is suspected by some of harbouring a secret Islamist agenda.
Eruygur and Tolon are also accused of being senior leaders of Ergenekon, a nationalist-secularist network which allegedly planned to sow unrest and stage political murders to prompt a military coup.
Eighty-six other suspects already went on trial on charges of belonging to the Ergenekon network in October.
"We do not want any outside intervention in this trial. The prosectors must be left free," said a written statement read out by a spokesman for the protestors.
Turkish newspapers have recently reported that the prosecutors in charge of the probe might be replaced, a development that supporters say could spell the end of their two-year-old investigation into the alleged network.
The protestors also denounced what they saw as the heavy clout the Turkish armed forces wields and called on it to keep out of politics.
The Turkish military, which has unseated four governments since 1960, has seen its powers reduced under reforms to ease Turkey's entry into the European Union, and has kept a relatively low profile in recent years.
Although initially hailed as a success, the Ergenekon probe has rekindled tensions between AKP supporters and its secularist opponents.
Some say the investigation will shed light on anti-democratic forces at work in the country, while others accuse the AKP of using the probe to target opponents and discredit the army, a staunch defender of the country's secular system.
Date created : 2009-07-18