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Turkey arrests 5 more in alleged coup plot

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The Associated Press
Monday, March 7, 2011; 5:20 AM

ANKARA, Turkey -- A Turkish court on Monday ordered four journalists and a writer jailed as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to topple the Islamic-rooted government.

The court charged writer Yalcin Kucuk, a staunch government critic, and four journalists of the anti-government news website Oda TV with involvement in an alleged hardline secularist network, called Ergenekon, which prosecutors say plotted to bring down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in 2003.

Two leading investigative journalists were charged and ordered jailed a day earlier.

All seven were detained last week after police raided their homes, sparking protests from journalists groups and expressions of concern from Western governments and international media rights groups.

The journalists have joined some 400 suspects already on trial over the alleged plot, which was first uncovered in 2007 with the discovery of weapons in the home of a retired military officer. The defendants include other journalists, politicians, academics and some retired military officers.

Critics contend that the government is using the Ergenekon case to jail secular-minded foes and to silence opponents. The government insists the trial is strengthening democratic rule in Turkey by helping to unravel shady networks that once operated with impunity in Turkey.

The prosecutor's office issued a statement Sunday insisting the journalists were not detained because of their reporting but because of evidence he could not disclose "due to the confidentiality of the investigation."

Also Sunday, President Abdullah Gul was quoted as expressing concern that the detentions were undermining a country that some have touted as a model democracy for Middle Eastern nations.

Oda TV's owner and two of his colleagues were detained and jailed last month. Mustafa Balbay, a columnist for pro-secular Cumhuriyet newspaper and a fierce government critic, has been in jail for more than two years.

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