Academics charged in Turkey's alleged "Ergenekon" plot

Academics charged in Turkey's alleged "Ergenekon" plot Ankara - A group of academics and others have been formally charged with being members of the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy to overthrow Turkey's moderate Islamist government, local media reported Friday.

Professor Mehmet Haberal - Rector of Baskent University in Ankara and the owner of television station Kanal B - three former university rectors, other academics and two members of secular non-governmental organizations were all charged Friday morning with being involved in the Ergenekon plot, which allegedly planned a nationalist, secular coup.

Haberal was later on Friday taken to hospital for tests after complaining of feeling unwell.

The group also allegedly had plans to carry out assassinations of political and social leaders, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, former Chief of General Staff Yasar Buyukanit and Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk.

It was through these assassinations and other destabilizing attacks that the group hoped to create the chaos necessary to allow the military to launch a coup in 2009 on the basis that it was bringing order back to society, the Turkish authorities allege.

Ergenekon is the name that prosecutors allege the group called themselves and refers to a mythical Turkic homeland in central Asia.

Haberal and the seven others were taken into custody on Monday in the latest wave of arrests in connection to the Ergenekon case, bringing the total number charged to almost 150 people.

Those taken into custody earlier are currently on trial in Istanbul for their alleged involvement in the coup plot. Prosecutors at the trial have said that the staunchly secularist and nationalist group was angry at what they believe is the government's watering down of secular laws and its erosion of national sovereignty in Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Opposition figures have described the trial as a witch hunt carried out by the government as revenge for a failed attempt to have the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) closed down or as a way to take attention away from its alleged attempts to undermine the secular state and implement Sharia (Islamic) law. (dpa)