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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid