ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey's police detained dozens of people in simultaneous raids Wednesday, widening a probe into an alleged plot by secularists to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government.
Deniz Baykal, the leader of the country's main opposition party, accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government of a "political vendetta" against retired generals, judicial authorities and others whom he said stood in opposition to the government.
"The detentions have turned into a revenge campaign," Baykal said. "These are respected people who defended the secular republic."
Baykal's harsh reaction underlined a widening divide between the country's growing Islamic political and business class and secular foes, some of whom have turned to violence.
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin rejected Baykal's allegations of a political motive for the detentions, saying the arrests were "purely legal, not political."
The police detained Wednesday yet another high-ranking former general, Tuncer Kilinc, and searched the house of the country's former chief prosecutor, Sabih Kanadoglu — who filed a lawsuit in a failed attempt to disband Erdogan's party on charges of undermining the country's secular principles.
Some 40 others were also arrested, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency and other news reports.
It was the 10th wave of raids on homes and offices of prominent secularists in more than a year. The police confiscated five guns and 22 hand grenades Wednesday at the home a retired military officer in western Izmit city, near Istanbul, Anatolia reported.
Erdogan's Justice and Development Party narrowly escaped a ban by the Constitutional Court last summer, but the court issued a stern warning to the party not to challenge the secular system.
Eighty-six people are on trial for alleged involvement in a shadowy nationalist group and plotting an armed uprising against the government. Prosecutors charged the suspects with involvement in a terrorist group, accusing it of planning attacks and killings aimed at creating chaos that would lead to the overthrow of the government.
The indictment alleges the suspects planned to kill Erdogan, Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk, prominent Kurdish politicians and the country's military chief.
The case has raised concerns about political instability in Turkey, a country that has endured the ouster of four governments by the military since 1960.