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Turkey Charges Alleged Coup Plotters

Istanbul's chief prosecutor says 86 people will be prosecuted under terrorism laws for attempting to overthrow the government. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul the indictments were made while the ruling Islamic AK Party is facing closure on charges of undermining the secular state.

Istanbul chief prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin told a news conference the 86 defendants have been indicted on terror charges.

He says the indictment covers crimes such as forming an armed terror group and attempting to overthrow the government by force.

The nearly 2,500-page indictment is the culmination of a 13-month investigation sparked by the discovery of a cache of arms and explosives in an Istanbul suburb. The investigation, held in secret under Turkey 's strict anti-terror laws, led to the detention of dozens of people, including alleged mafia members, businessmen and retired military officers.

The prosecutor says the plotters sought to bring chaos to the country.

Cengiz says the defendants will face charges of seeking to provoke civil unrest, public disorder offenses, provoking disobedience within the army, and possession of explosives. He says the court has to decide whether to accept the case within 15 days.

The alleged conspirators are claimed to have called their gang Ergenekon, the name of a mythical land where Turks once were said to have sought refuge.

Since 1960, the army has forced four governments from office. The deputy editor of the Turkish daily Taraf, Yasmin Congar, says the case is a key moment for Turkish democracy.

"If people manage to get to the roots of this Ergenekon gang and to basically kick them out of the state structure, then we can become a democratic country," he said. "If we do not do that it is going to be more coups, more interferences in politics by forces we do not know."

But critics of the investigation have attacked both its methods and motivation. Many of those arrested have been held for months without charge.

Critics also point out the last arrests were made on the same day Turkey's chief prosecutor presented a case to the constitutional court that calls for the closure of the ruling AK Party on charges of undermining the country's secularism.

The two cases are polarizing Turkish society, with both sides accusing the other of using the judiciary for political purposes. Analysts say it is not only the defendants on trial, but also Turkey's legal system.