Turkey charges seven military officers over coup plot

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Turkish Army seal.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

A Turkish court on Wednesday charged and jailed seven senior Turkish military officers for allegedly plotting several years ago to overthrow the Turkish government.

The officers consist of four admirals, an army general, and two staff colonels. Among them were Admiral Ramazan Cem Gundeniz, Admiral Aziz Cakmak, retired General Mehmet Kaya Varol, retired Admiral Ali Deniz Kutluk, and retired Admiral Ozer Karabulut. Also arrested were retired General İbrahim Fırtına, who was Commander of the Air Force from 2003 until his retirement in 2005, and retired Admiral Ozden Ornek, Commander of the Navy, also from 2003 to 2005. The court released six other officers.

The seven were among more than 40 officers arrested on Monday over an alleged 2003 plot to create chaos in Turkey and justify a military coup. The military said in a statement that all top generals and admirals met at the military headquarters yesterday to evaluate "the serious situation" regarding the investigation.

Last month Taraf newspaper stated it had obtained 5,000 pages of documents and tapes on the 'Sledgehammer' plan, which was aimed to overthrow the AK party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) and to justify an army takeover in 2003. According to the report on January 21 2010, the army had plotted to provoke Greek fighter jets into shooting down a Turkish military jet and plant bombs in Istanbul mosques. The Turkish military had said documents were part of a military training seminar and not meant to be carried out.

Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ on January 25 called these allegations “unconscionable” and said they were part of a campaign of psychological warfare designed to undermine public trust in the armed forces.

“This is not something we’ve ever experienced in Turkey before, so it’s very hard to predict what will happen,” said Etyen Mahcupyan, director of the democratization program at Istanbul research institute Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. Possible military responses may range from a mass resignation to a statement expressing faith in the judicial process, he said.

29 of those detained are being questioned by Istanbul police and another ten officers were brought before an Istanbul court on Tuesday morning according to reports by NTV and state-run Anatolian news agency.

The Turkish Armed Forces have been responsible for 4 military coups in Turkey in the last 50 years. Other senior military officers have been arrested and indicted in separate plot to overthrow the government, involving a supposed far-right, ultra-nationalist group known as Ergenekon. Opponents of the government claim the ongoing trial of the Ergenekon group is being used by the government to target political opposition. The government rejects the accusation.

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