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Turkish Court Charges 7 Military Officers in Coup Plot

A Turkish court has charged and ordered jailed seven senior Turkish military officers for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government. The charges are part of unprecedented investigation into the Turkish army, which has forced four government from office since 1960.

Four admirals, an army general and two colonels, some of whom are retired, were ordered jailed while they await trial.

They are among nearly 50 senior officers arrested on Monday in connection with an alleged 2003 military plot called "sledgehammer". Turkish media say the plot included plans to destabilize the government by planting bombs in mosques and provoking Greece to shoot down a Turkish jet.

Attorneys for the jailed officers said the charges are groundless .

Turkey's military held a top-level meeting Tuesday to discuss what they called a "serious situation." But observers say further arrests and prosecutions of army officers are expected in the coming days .

In opinion polls the public regularly cites the army as the most trusted institution. But Cengiz Aktar of Bahcesehir University says the reaction of the Turkish people is significant.

"These huge numbers of arrests of military personnel went through, there were no demonstrations on the streets and people were not necessarily upset," said Cengiz Aktar. "And it was business as usual for many. But the polarization exists for sure between the ruling party and opposition."

The mass arrests highlight deepening tensions between Turkey's Islamist-rooted ruling party, the Justice and Development Party, and the military, which considers itself the guardian of the country's secular tradition. The military has ousted four Turkish governments in the past 50 years.

The judiciary has also been targeted in a series of investigations by special government appointed prosecutors. In 2008 the government narrowly escaped falling after being convicted by the constitutional court of undermining the secular state.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul met with constitutional court head Hasim Kilic in a bid to defuse tensions. Kilic called for reform in an address to a meeting in Ankara.

If in a country people are worried about justice and the judiciary system, we should hear their voices and then develop projects for the problems, he said. The honor of the state and the people can only be protected by a strong and independent judiciary.

Observers say for judicial reform to succeed, it needs a political consensus. But with the country deeply polarized that may prove hard to find.