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Twelve Turkish military officers charged in alleged plot to overthrow government

[JURIST] Twelve high-ranking Turkish military officers were formally charged on Wednesday for their role in an alleged plot to overthrow Turkey's government. Among those charged [Hurriyet report] were four admirals, two retired colonels, and a retired brigadier general. More than 50 officers were arrested [Reuters report] on Monday, including former Navy Commander Adm. Ozden Ornek and former Air Force Commander Gen. Ibrahim Firtina. Turkey's Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug [official profile] is scheduled to meet [AFP report] with President Abdullah Gul [official website, in Turkish] and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday to discuss the detentions. The officers are accused of participating in the 2003 Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish], or "Sledgehammer plot," revealed last month by the newspaper Taraf [official website, in Turkish], which included detailed plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane.

Turkey's secular nationalist establishment, including the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) [official website, in Turkish], has long conflicted with the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. In July 2009, Gul approved [JURIST report] a law that would allow the prosecution of military personnel in civilian courts and would prevent military prosecution of civilians during peacetime. Gul said that the law was necessary for accession [JURIST report] to the European Union (EU) [official website]. The Sledgehammer plot is similar to the Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] conspiracy, in which the secular group is suspected of planning to overthrow [JURIST report] the AKP. The Ergenekon group is also alleged to be involved in bombings, political assassination plots, and the death of journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary]. The probe into the Ergenekon conspiracy has been criticized as an attempt by the AKP to silence opposition and further its imposition of Islamic principles [JURIST report] in violation of Turkey's secular constitution [text]. Trials against the Ergenekon group [JURIST report] opened two years ago with more than 200 suspects in custody.

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