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Turkey Detains Academics On Links To Plot Case

Supporters of the Ergenekon network display Workers' Party flags in Istanbul
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police detained the head of a university and two former heads on April 13 in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the government, the state-run Anatolian news agency said.

The raids were part of an operation against the shadowy, ultra-nationalist Ergenekon organization, which has unsettled markets and increased tension between the Islamist-rooted AK Party government and secularists, including the military.

Nearly 150 people, including retired senior military officers, lawyers and academics, are on trial for their links to Ergenekon. Prosecutors say the group was planning a campaign of bombings and attacks to force the army to step in against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Anatolian said Mehmet Haberal, head of Baskent University in Ankara, was detained at his home after police searched it.

Police also arrested a former college head in the Black Sea city of Samsun and another in the eastern city of Malatya.

Police were searching the house of Mustafa Yurtkuran, acting chairman of a staunchly secularist group know as the Ataturk Thought Association. The group's offices across Turkey were being searched by police, Anatolian said.

Ergenekon came to light more than a year ago when explosives were discovered in a police raid on an Istanbul house.

Some observers see the investigation, which has targeted many government critics, as revenge for a failed 2008 lawsuit to ban the AK Party on the grounds of antisecular activities. The party denies this.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with a strongly secular constitution, is a NATO member and aspires to join the European Union.

The military has unseated four elected governments either in outright coups or by strong political pressure. It has denied any links to Ergenekon.