World News

Turkish court indicts 196 over suspected coup plot

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court indicted 196 people on Monday, among them retired military commanders, over an alleged plot to overthrow the government which has its roots in political Islam, state-run Anatolian news agency said.

Revelations this year of an alleged 2003 plot codenamed “Sledgehammer” shocked Turkey and aggravated simmering tensions between the government and the secularist armed forces, as scores of retired and serving military officers were arrested.

According to Turkish media the plot was said to involve bombing historic mosques and provoking Greece into shooting down a Turkish war plane to create a war-like situation and destabilise the AK Party government, in power since 2002.

Among those named in the indictment are Cetin Dogan, former head of Turkey’s prestigious First Army, and retired air force commander Ibrahim Firtina, both of whom were first arrested early this year.

The indictment, prepared by Istanbul prosecutors, included calls for jail sentences of 15 to 20 years for the alleged perpetrators, Anatolian said. No date has been set for a trial.

Turkey’s military, the second largest in NATO, has overthrown three governments since 1960 and pressured Turkey’s first Islamist-led government into resignation in 1997.

The military has said there was no conspiracy and operation “Sledgehammer” was merely a war game exercise presented at a seminar.

The arrests of former military top brass highlight a major social transition in EU-membership candidate Turkey, as power shifts from traditional secular elites such as the armed forces and judiciary to a new political class of conservative Muslims, epitomised by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party.

Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Jon Hemming