Turkey launches new crackdown on ex-officers

AP News
Posted: Apr 12, 2012 7:20 AM
Turkey launches new crackdown on ex-officers

Turkish prosecutors on Thursday ordered the arrest of dozens of former military officers, including four retired generals, over their role in the ousting of an Islamist prime minister.

The latest probe comes at a time when Turkey's Islamic-rooted government is trying to quash military's influence in the country's politics.

Police searched homes of more than a dozen suspects Thursday, including Cevik Bir and three other former generals, over their role in forcing the resignation in 1997 of an Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. Bir, a former deputy chief of staff who served in Somalia as commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission there in 1993, had gained fame as the military's chief critic of radical Islam. The country's military considers itself a bulwark of Turkey's secular rule.

The officers are accused of pressuring Erbakan to resign over his alleged attempts to increase the profile of Islam in this predominantly Muslim but secular country, according to the prosecutors' office in Ankara.

Erbakan's Islamic Welfare Party had won the 1995 election, which opened the way for the greater role of Islam in Turkey's political, social and cultural life. The Welfare-led government pledged then to allow civil servants to wear Islamic-style clothing and attempted to change work hours to suit religious fasting

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the probe is an attempt to ensure that there are no coups in the future.

The military has overthrown three Turkish governments since 1960 and pressured Erbakan's government out of office in 1997.

Last week, Turkey put on trial two elderly leaders involved in another coup in 1980. Hundreds of suspects, including several senior retired and active duty officers, are separately on trial for allegedly plotting to topple the current government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2003.