News / Europe

Turkish Army Officers Convicted of Coup Plot Seek Release

FILE - Wives and relatives of retired and active military officers charged in the so-called Sledgehammer trial hold a protest at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of secular Turkey, in Ankara, Feb. 19, 2011.
FILE - Wives and relatives of retired and active military officers charged in the so-called Sledgehammer trial hold a protest at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of secular Turkey, in Ankara, Feb. 19, 2011.
Reuters
— Hundreds of Turkish military officers convicted of plotting to topple Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were petitioning for release on Thursday after the country's top court ruled their trial was flawed.
 
The 2010-2012 “Sledgehammer” trial marked a high-point in Erdogan's drive to tame an army that for decades had dominated politics. But in consigning a large number of senior serving as well as retired officers to jail, it also eroded NATO's second biggest army amid tension on borders with Syria and Iraq.
 
Erdogan said early this year he was open to the idea of a retrial. Officials suggested evidence had been manipulated by an influential Islamic cleric who had been using influence in police and judiciary to help Erdogan break the army's power.
 
Cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan turned bitter rival, denies any wrongdoing.
 
The constitutional court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that the officers' rights had been violated in the handling of digital evidence and the refusal to hear testimony from two former top military commanders as requested by defendants.
 
Celal Ulgen, defending some of the officers, said: “If the constitutional court ruling arrives during the day, the releases may begin.”
 
He told Reuters lawyers for some of the defendants had already applied for their release although the court had said individual applications were unnecessary. Media reports said 81 of those convicted had so far sought their release.
 
Release of the officers could ease relations between Erdogan - his primacy over the army largely secured - and an officer corps he has excluded from policy-making bodies since coming to power in 2003. The generals, who had removed four governments in four decades, viewed Erdogan with suspicion because of his Islamist past but his popularity afforded him some protection.
 
1980 coup leader jailed
 
In March, a court ordered the release of a former military chief and other defendants accused of the separate “Ergenekon” plot also to topple the government.
 
Erdogan, who is expected to seek the presidency in an August election, is now focused on battling U.S.-based cleric Gulen, whom he also accuses of trying to unseat him.
 
The election comes at a time of heightened tensions on Turkey's frontiers. The armed forces have deployed additional defenses on the Syrian border to cope with spillover from civil war there and a Sunni insurgency in Iraq has also raised alarm in Ankara.
 
More than 300 officers were sentenced in September 2012 over the alleged “Sledgehammer” conspiracy and the appeals court upheld their convictions last October.
 
The alleged plot dates back to 2003, months after Erdogan first came to power, and was said to include plans to bomb mosques and trigger a conflict with Greece by shooting down one of Turkey's own warplanes to trigger a military takeover.
 
Turkey's armed forces were long the guardians of the secular republic established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, carrying out three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pushing an Islamist-led government from power in 1997.
 
Since first coming to power, Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party has reined in army influence with a series of reforms designed to boost democracy, while prosecutors have pursued suspected coup-plotters in the army through the courts.
 
The leading defendants in the Sledgehammer case were Cetin Dogan, a former commander of the prestigious First Army, former air force commander Ibrahim Firtina and retired admiral Ozden Ornek, who were given 20-year prison sentences.
 
Sledgehammer and other trials sparked accusations that the government was using courts to silence political opponents.
 
Former army chief Kenan Evren, 96, was sentenced to life in jail on Wednesday for leading a 1980 coup that resulted in widespread torture, arrests and deaths.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid