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40 Turks arrested in Ergenekon probe

April 13, 2009 at 8:22 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, April 13 (UPI) -- University rectors were among dozens arrested Monday in a probe of an alleged anti-government plot, the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman reported.

Among the 40 people taken into custody were current and former administrators of Baskent University, Ondokuz Mayis University and Inonu University, as well as leaders of the Ataturkist Thought Association and the Support for Modern Life Association, the newspaper reported.

Today's Zaman said the detainees, taken in coordinated raids in 18 cities, were arrested in connection with an investigation of the group Ergenekon, which officials say is devoted to bringing down Turkey's Islamist government and is aiming to restore the strictly secularist values of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish republic.

In Ankara, Baskent University Rector Mehmet Haberal was arrested by police as university instructors and students cheered him and employees rushed to the scene to express support for the rector, Today's Zaman said.

Haberal, as he was being led away, reportedly urged supporters to ask questions about the motivations of prosecutors, saying, "Ask those who are organizing this operation. This is not worthy of Ataturk's republic."

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