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Turk military says no evidence of assassination plot

Turkey's military denied on Friday a special forces unit had plotted to kill a conservative deputy prime minister and said a police search at the unit's headquarters had produced no evidence of such a plan.

world Updated: Jan 22, 2010 19:26 IST

Turkey's military denied on Friday a special forces unit had plotted to kill a conservative deputy prime minister and said a police search at the unit's headquarters had produced no evidence of such a plan.

Civilian investigators looking into the alleged plot last month conducted a search of a military facility once off-limits to them in the capital Ankara and detained eight soldiers, then released them within days.

The episode added to strains between the Islamist-rooted AK Party government and the staunchly secularist military.

The military has a long history on intervening in politics, but has seen its influence wane in recent years as Turkey has sought to improve its democratic credentials in support of its faltering bid for EU membership.

"According to the search report, no activities outside the job definition of the Special Forces' Tactical Mobilisation have been detected," Brigadier General Hifzi Cubuklu, the general staff's legal adviser told a news conference.

"Units of the Turkish Armed Forces have never been involved in illegal actions, and will never be. What needs to be done will be done against individual mistakes."

Soldiers at the facility had initially tried to stop the civilian investigators entering, but the military acquiesced to the search, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Turkish media had reported the search was carried out in connection to a suspected plot to assassinate Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.

The case erupted on Dec. 19, when police detained a colonel and a major whose car had been seen several times passing by Arinc's residence in the capital Ankara.

Frictions between the secularist establishment, which includes the military, and the AK Party, whose roots lie in Political Islam, have often surfaced.

Markets have mostly ignored the tensions as investors have focused on the global economy and on negotiations between Ankara and the International Monetary Fund on a stand-by loan deal.

Media reports of a series of alleged anti-government plots that have tainted the generals' reputation had put the military on the defensive.

But in a victory for the military, the Constitutional Court late on Thursday overturned a law allowing military personnel to be tried in civilian courts.

The EU had warmly welcomed the legislation, which had been dubbed by many a "civilian revolution".