Judges set to hand down verdict in Turkey coup trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2012 9:22 AM
Judges set to hand down verdict in Turkey coup trial

By Ece Toksabay

SILIVRI, Turkey (Reuters) - Judges were considering their verdict on Thursday in the trial of hundreds of Turkish military officers accused of plotting to overthrow the government, a case which has underlined civilian dominance over Turkey's once all-powerful army.

Defense lawyers made their final pleas in the two-year "Sledgehammer" trial, which revolves around a 2003 military seminar that prosecutors say was part of a plot to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

The judges then went into recess to consider their verdict.

"We don't know how long it will take, but the trial will continue today to announce the verdict" said Omer Diken, the head of a three-judge panel hearing the case.

Prosecutors have demanded 15-20 year jail sentences for the 364 serving and retired officers on trial.

The conspiracy is alleged to have included plans to bomb historic mosques in Istanbul and trigger conflict with Greece to pave the way for an army takeover.

The Turkish army has traditionally played a dominant role in politics, staging three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pushing the country's first Islamist-led government from office in 1997.

Its authority has been reined in sharply since Erdogan first came to power nearly a decade ago.

All but a few of the defense lawyers were absent from the final hearing in protest at the judges' decision to reject demands for further investigation into the authenticity of documents key to the prosecution's case.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)