Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin defended himself Monday against charges of becoming personally involved in the case against a group of alleged coup plotters, vowing he never got involved in any individual judicial case, the Anadolu news agency reported.
Sahin's defence came after the head of the Jurists' and Prosecutors' Union (YARSAV) had earlier Monday accused the government and Sahin of getting directly involved in the case against more than 100 staunch secularists who are alleged to have conspired to overthrow Turkey's moderate Islamic government, dpa reported.
YARSAV head Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu said that the government was interfering in the case for its own political means. Eminagaoglu was particularly critical of weekly meetings Sahin was having with the Istanbul chief prosecutor, the prosecution department that is leading the investigations.
"I've said this so many times. I have not been involved in a judicial case," Sahin said of the allegations.
Prosecutors have claimed that the Ergenekon gang 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. The name Ergenekon refers to a mythic Turkic homeland.
It was through these assassinations and other types of destabilizing attacks that the group hoped to create the chaos necessary to provoke the military into launching a coup in 2009 in order to restore order.
"Judicial work is the job of totally independent judicial organs. Neither the Justice Ministry nor myself are a party to this case," Sahin said on Monday.
Opposition figures and staunch secularists have described the Ergenekon trial as a witch hunt carried out by the government as revenge for a failed attempt to close down the Justice and Development Party (AKP) last year.
Over the weekend Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at those who have criticized the investigations.
"No-one is above the law," Erdogan said on Sunday. "We demonstrate a firm and courageous stance to rescue our country and people from the molestations of gangs and the mafia."