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Turkey Says Raids on Leftists Foil Attacks as 55 Charged

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish courts charged 55 suspects as part of a nationwide police crackdown on a leftist group, saying the raids foiled plans to attack government and security officials as well as diplomatic missions, state-run TRT television and Anatolia news agency said today.

Left-wing lawyers, university students, artists and at least one journalist were among the suspects charged with ties to the Revolutionary Peoples’ Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, Anatolia said. Police said the group planned to assassinate high-ranking government, military and police officials while also plotting to attack foreign missions, the agency reported.

Nine lawyers, mostly members of the Progressive Lawyers Association which often criticizes the Islamic-rooted government’s policies, were jailed pending trial yesterday as part of the crackdown against the DHKP-C.

The Marxist group, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, claimed responsibility for a series of attacks against police stations including a suicide bombing in Istanbul last year. The group, and its forerunner, Dev Sol, are accused of assassinating senior leaders, including former Prime Minister Nihat Erim and retired generals in attacks in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The lawyers’ “arrest and imprisonment are part of a wider clampdown on those who oppose the government,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement today. “What makes the latest arrests particularly disturbing is that these lawyers are well-known for acting on behalf of those whose rights have been violated by the state.”

‘Abusive Use’

Human Rights Watch accused the Turkish government of “arbitrary and abusive use of anti-terrorism laws.”

Police confiscated a small piece of paper with satellite coordinates of potential targets in the Aegean port of Izmir, including police stations, political party branches as well as language schools and cultural centers, Anatolia said.

Some of the suspects were also accused of spying on Turkey on behalf of neighboring countries, Today’s Zaman newspaper said on Jan. 20.

Some DHKP-C leaders fled Turkey after a 1980 military coup, and hundreds of activists or sympathizers are believed to live in Europe.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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