Turkey prosecutor seeks life sentences for generals over coup: TV

Reuters News
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Posted: May 22, 2013 10:30 AM

ANKARA (Reuters) - More than 100 senior Turkish army officers face prosecution demands they spend the rest of their lives in jail for their alleged role in toppling Turkey's first Islamist-led government 16 years ago, a Turkish TV channel reported on Wednesday.

The investigation into former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan's 1997 ouster is the latest in a series of judicial cases targeting the once all-powerful Turkish military, whose influence has been curbed sharply in the last decade.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, in power for the last 10 years, was a member of Erbakan's Islamist party.

Private broadcaster NTV named retired and serving officers among the 103 mostly generals, charged in the 1,300-page indictment completed by Prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili.

It said the indictment named the prime suspect as General Ismail Hakki Karadayi, chief of general staff between 1994 and 1998. Another defendant is the former land forces commander, General Erdal Ceylanoglu, believed to have ordered tanks onto the streets outside Ankara before the military intervention.

NTV did not identify its source and the prosecutor's office declined to comment. It was not clear when the indictment would be presented to court before the case is opened.

The curbing of the army's power has been a key feature of Erdogan's decade in power at the helm of his Islamist-rooted AK Party. Prosecutors have pursued officers suspected of conspiring against current and former governments.

Erbakan, who died of heart failure aged 85 in 2011, pioneered Islamist politics in Turkey, a largely Muslim country with a secular state order, and paved the way for the subsequent success of Erdogan's AK Party.

The events of 1997 were dubbed the "post-modern coup" as the generals used pressure behind the scenes to force Erbakan from power, in contrast to the direct intervention of three outright military coups in Turkey in 1960, 1971 and 1980.

More than 300 military officers were sentenced to jail in September for the so-called "Sledgehammer" plot against Erdogan in 2003. Another 275 people - including politicians, academics, journalists and retired army officers - are on trial on charges related to separate coup conspiracies.

Retired generals convicted over their involvement in the "Sledgehammer" case, which revolves around a 2003 military seminar that prosecutors say was part of a plot to overthrow Erdogan's government, were also among the accused on Wednesday.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Alistair Lyon)