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Terrorism & Security

Turkey charges military officers over coup plot

Seven Turkey military officers were charged on Wednesday with a coup plot against the country’s Islamist-leaning government.

By Liam StackCorrespondent / February 24, 2010

Security members stand at the entrance of the courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday. Seven military officers were charged on Wednesday with plotting a coup against the government.

Ibrahim Usta/AP

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Seven high-ranking Turkish military officers were charged on Wednesday with plotting a coup against the country’s Islamist-leaning government, two days after as many as 50 officers were arrested and accused of belonging to the plot.

It is the first time that civilian authorities have headed off an alleged coup by the country’s powerful military, which has overthrown four governments since 1960. While some opposition figures have cried foul, other players – including the US and EU – have called for transparency in this case and adherence to the rule of law in Turkey, NATO’s only member with a Muslim majority.

The Sofia Echo of Bulgaria calls the arrests “a political earthquake” and the Associated Press says they are “the highest profile crackdown ever on the military,” which is seen as the traditional defender of the secular state established in 1923.

The arrests have also increased long-simmering tension between the military, the country’s Islamist leaning Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his AK Party.

The so-called "sledgehammer case" is notable for how many top military figures it has ensnared. Reuters reports that the Istanbul court jailed four admirals, a retired brigadier-general and two retired colonels. Until a formal indictment can be made, Reuters says the seven men stand accused of membership in a terrorist organization and attempting to overthrow the government.

Prosecutors continue to question several other high-ranking figures, says the AP, including the former chiefs of the Navy, Air Force and Special forces. Turkish paper Today’s Zaman reports that 49 military officers were arrested over all, including 17 retired generals, four admirals, 27 other officers of various ranks and one noncommissioned officer.

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