ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish police used water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray on Monday to disperse thousands of people protesting outside a court house in support of 275 people who are on trial for allegedly plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.
The defendants were due to deliver their final statements at the trial — which began more than four years ago and is nearing an end — but a panel of judges adjourned the proceedings until Thursday because of tensions both inside and outside the court.
Many of the protesters tried to break through barricades mounted around the prison and courthouse complex in the outskirts of Istanbul, shouting anti-government slogans. The tear gas and pepper spray fired by police also affected people inside the courtroom. In addition, defense lawyers were arguing with court authorities over seating arrangements at the proceeding.
The defendants include prominent journalists, politicians, academics and retired generals. They are accused of being part of an alleged pro-secular and ultranationalist "terror" group which prosecutors say plotted a series of attacks in a bid to foment chaos and provoke a military coup that would bring down Erdogan's Islam-based government.
Last month, prosecutors demanded life prison terms for 64 of the defendants, including former military chief Ilker Basbug.
The defendants have all pleaded innocent and rejected the accusations against them. Critics charge the trial is based on feeble evidence and is a government ploy to muzzle secularist opponents.
In September, more than 300 military officers, including Turkey's former air force and navy chiefs, were convicted of separate plots to bring down the government in 2003. Those verdicts are being appealed.