Turkish military officers charged in plot to topple government
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister vowed Friday to put everyone who conspired against the country’s democracy on trial, as the number of military officers charged and jailed for allegedly plotting a 2003 coup against his Islamic-based government rose to 31.
That figure, which included seven admirals and four generals, represents the largest-ever crackdown on Turkey’s military, which has ousted four civilian governments since 1960. In a fresh nationwide sweep on Friday, police detained 18 more officers, all but one of whom are still on active duty, television stations said.
The officers were detained in 13 different cities and were being transferred to Istanbul, the reports said. That brings the total of officers detained this week to 67.
The military has wielded strong influence on politics for decades but has seen its powers dramatically curtailed by Prime Minister Recep Tayy ip Erdogan’s government, which took steps to put the military under civilian rule.
“ A n impaired democracy is not the fate of this country,” Erdogan told lawmakers at a televised meeting Friday. “No one is above the law, no one is untouchable, no one is privileged.”
The probe has fueled tensions between the government and the fiercely secular military and shaken the markets, but Erdogan has dismissed calls by opposition parties for early elections.
“Th e process under way is painstaking, but it is for the benefit of the people, today’s developments are setting free the consciousness of the people,” Erdogan said. “Those conspiring behind closed doors to trample on the nation’s will from now on will find themselves facing justice.”
He added: “ They should know that they won’t get away with it.”
E rd o g a n , President Abdullah Gul and military chief Gen. Ilker Basbug held a rare meeting Thursday, later issuing a joint statement seeking to ease tensions.
“ The public must be assured that matters will be handled in line with the law and everyone should act responsibly not to damage institutions,” the statement said.
The 11 most recently charged officers included two active-duty admirals and one retired general. The court’s decision to jail them came after prosecutors late Thursday released the former chiefs of the navy and air force and another top general without immediately charging them, saying they were unlikely to flee.
On Friday morning, police escorted more officers to the court for questioning, including Gen. Cetin Dogan, the former chief of the 1st Army based in Istanbul and Gen. Engin Alan, former head of the Special Forces.
All suspects have reportedly denied the allegations, which include plotting to blow up mosques and kill some nonMuslim figures to foment chaos and trigger a military takeover.