Turkish police detain 19, including 4 generals, in alleged military coup plot probe

By Selcan Hacaoglu, AP
Monday, April 5, 2010

Turkish police detain 19 in coup plot

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish police detained 19 officers, including four generals, as part of an investigation into an alleged plot by elements of the fiercely secular military seeking to topple the Islamic-rooted government, the state news agency said Monday.

All but one colonel were retired officers. It is the latest crackdown on Turkey’s military, which has ousted four civilian governments since 1960.

Police confirmed the crackdown but would not say how many people had been detained. The Anatolia agency said without citing sources that police staged raids in 14 cities Monday and that more people could be detained. Private NTV television, citing unidentified judicial officials, said prosecutors had ordered the detention of 95 suspects, mostly active-duty officers.

A broader showdown is taking place between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which enjoys strong electoral backing and the support of the European Union, and the staunchly secular military.

The military has wielded strong influence on politics for decades, but has seen its powers dramatically curtailed by Erdogan’s government, which took steps to put the military under civilian rule.

Erdogan vowed to put everyone who conspired against the country’s democracy on trial in late February after close to 40 other officers, including several generals and admirals, were charged for allegedly plotting a 2003 coup against his government.

The suspects are accused of seeking to destabilize the country by blowing up mosques to trigger a coup and topple the government.

Erdogan’s ruling party is also engaged in a battle against the country’s secular opposition party over a series of amendments to the constitution that could pave the way for trials of top military commanders by civilian courts and would make disbanding political parties more difficult.

Hundreds of civilians, retired and active-duty officers are already on trial on charges of an apparently separate coup plot against the government. They are accused of membership in an alleged terror network caled “Ergenekon.”

Opposition leaders claim the coup probes are tinged by politics, a charge the government rejects.

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