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Middle east

Turkish court orders arrest of 102 for coup plot

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-23

A Turkish court ordered the arrest of 102 suspects, including retired military officials, over an alleged plot by secularist armed forces to oust the moderate Islamic AK party government in 2003.

REUTERS - A court in Turkey ordered on Friday the arrest, or in many cases re-arrest, of 102 people, including retired military commanders suspected of plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government in 2003.

This year’s investigations into the alleged plot codenamned “Sledgehammer” shocked Turkey and aggravated tensions between the AK Party government and the secularist armed forces.

“It is a black stain in legal history,” Cetin Dogan, the retired former head of Turkey’s prestigious First Army, told CNN-Turk news channel after the court ordered his re-arrest.

“Those who have smeared us will suffer the consequences,” said Dogan. The general’s lawyer said he will appeal on Monday against his client’s rearrest.

The arrests highlight a social transition in EU-membership candidate Turkey, as power shifts from traditional secular elites such as the armed forces to a new political class of conservative Muslims, epitomised by Erdogan’s AK Party.

The military, the second largest in NATO, has overthrown three governments since 1960 and pressured Turkey’s first Islamist-led government into resignation in 1997.

On Sept. 12 -- coincidentally the 30th anniversary of the 1980 military coup—Turks will vote in a referendum on whether to approve the government’s proposed constitutional changes.

According to Turkish media the Sledgehammer plot was said to involve bombing historic mosques and provoking Greece into shooting down a Turkish warplane to create a war-like situation in order to destabilise the AK Party government that came to power in 2002.

The military has said there was no conspiracy and operation “Sledgehammer” was merely a war game exercise presented at a seminar.

As of earlier this month there were no suspects being held in custody, as those previously arrested had all been released.

On Monday, a court accepted an indictment that named 196 suspects, including Dogan and and retired air force commander Ibrahim Firtina, who was also first arrested early this year.

Prosecutors have called for jail sentences of 15 to 20 years for those involved in the plot. State-run Anatolian news agency said the first hearing in the case would be held on Dec. 16.

While the AK Party sees itself as akin to a Muslim version of Christian Democrat parties in Europe, some critics suspect it harbours a secret Islamist agenda to roll back Turkey’s secular constitution.

Most of the proposed constitutional package to be voted on in September are uncontroversial, but critics say some of the proposed changes would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
 

Date created : 2010-07-23

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