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Tensions Increase Between Turkish Ruling Party and Military

Turkey continues to be rocked by allegations that members of its army were planning to overthrow the government. The most recent charges involve a document published by a newspaper that details a plan to destabilize the Islamic rooted government. The prime minister has called on prosecutors to investigate the powerful armed forces.

The four-page paper, which daily newspaper Taraf said was signed by a senior naval officer and dated in April, sets out plans to undermine the the Islamic rooted AK party and the religious movement led by the Muslim preacher Fetullah Gulen.

It suggests manipulating the media to stir up nationalist opposition to the ruling party, criticizing television series deemed socially subversive and, according to some reports, even planting weapons to suggest the government was planning violence.

Though the paper has published numerous stories of alleged military conspiracies against the Islamic rooted government in the last couple of years, deputy editor Yasmin Congar say this is the most serious. "It is very serious. It is very actual. The date on it is April 2009, which means this year,only a few months ago. Some people within the Turkish military were still making plans to fight with the elected government and to fight with a very large religious group in the country. In a way it's a coup plot against the current government," he said.

The charges against the military reflects a significant departure from the past, when the military was untouchable. The military sees itself as guardian of the 86-year-old secular state and has carried out three coups since Turkey became a multiparty system in 1950. It also pressured a fourth government, the first led by Islamists, to step down in 1997.

Local political observers say the military is deeply suspicions of the Islamic roots of the current government.

The latest allegations of a conspiracy against his government prompted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch an investigation into the matter.

He said, we are investigating. If necessary we will open court cases against the affiliated people. We can't step back. In a democratic society, he says, we won't be spectators to this unlawful treatment against our AK party. Whatever necessary will all be done.

The Army chief of staff has denied any involvement. And, as the political storm continues to grow, the army announced it will carry out its own investigation.

These latest allegations against the army come as retired army officers and opponents of the government are already on trial for another alleged plot against the islamic rooted government, known as the Ergenekon conspiracy. Leading member of the Turkish Parliament Suat Kiniklioglu says both his party and government remain under threat.

"The basic disagreement between militant secularists and conservative democrats in this case the government continues that tension continues. Unfortunately I am not very optimistic that it will subside. I am very much concerned for the future. My only hope that this conflict will get out of the constitutional order. One hears rumors these days , there is again a new court case being prepared to close the party down," he said.

Last year Kinklioglu's Justice and development party was found guilty of undermining the secular state by Turkey's constitutional court, It narrowly escaped closure with the court opting instead to fine the party.

Some sections of the media have questioned the validity of the latest revelations to undermine the government saying it could be plot to discredit the army.

On the streets of Istanbul there is a mixed response to this latest alleged conspiracy.

It is a surprising development, this man says. Something like that coming out as a army document signed by a colonel makes you wonder if Ergenekon conspiracy against the government does really exist.

But this man is more circumspect. "Nowadays we hear very surprising things, so now I don't surprise anything. And I don't know if I should believe or not because everyday I hear different things. The government says about the military different things, and the military say different things about the government. You know just the time will show. But I don't think that never the military thinks bad for the country always thinks good," he said.

Despite the allegations against the military, public polls show that the army is still ranked by Turks as the most trusted and respected institution. The EU, however, has called on Turkey to reduce the influence of its military. Reforms by the AK Party have cut its formal powers, but generals still wield vast power behind the scenes.