Fri, May 11, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Court takes military officers into custody in 1997 coup probe

AFP, ISTANBUL

A Turkish court yesterday placed six active and five retired generals in custody as part of a widening probe into the 1997 bloodless coup that toppled the country’s first Islamist-led government, the Anatolia news agency said.

Among the latest senior military officers swept up in the investigation is General Berkay Turgut, the Third Army’s chief of staff, it said.

Seventeen senior Turkish military officers, both retired and on active duty, were detained on Wednesday across the country as part of the investigation, accused of “trying to topple the government, or partially or totally impeding its activities.”

The investigation concerns the toppling in 1997 of Turkey’s first Islamist head of government, former Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, the political mentor of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Tuesday, Erdogan voiced uneasiness about the ongoing waves of arrests and called for a swift finalization of the legal case launched by prosecutors.

“We are seriously disturbed by these arrests. The steps that need to be taken must be taken and [the case] must be finalized,” he said.

The 1997 coup is often qualified as “postmodern” because the officers toppled the government without having to use troops or replace the civilian administration with the military.

A parade of tanks outside Ankara and an ultimatum addressed to Erbakan were all it took to overthrow his government without violence.

The army, which sees itself as the guarantor of Turkey’s secular principles, overthrew three previous administrations in 1960, 1971 and 1980.

Turkey is currently holding dozens of officers, some of them retired, on suspicion of plotting to oust the latest Islamist-led government, which took over in 2002.

The accusations targeting military officers are widely seen as part of efforts by the current Islamist-led government to roll back the military’s influence in politics.

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