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Turkish police detain 19 over alleged coup plot before chief prosecutor intervenes

[JURIST] Turkish police on Monday detained 19 retired military officers, including four generals, in connection with an alleged 2003 coup plot, before the chief prosecutor intervened. Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin stopped [Reuters report] police from arresting up to 90 suspects, replacing two lower-level prosecutors. The alleged coup plot, known as the Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish], or the "Sledgehammer plot," was originally revealed in January by the newspaper Taraf [media website, in Turkish]. The plot included detailed plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane as part of an effort by the military to undermine the government. The most recent arrests could increase existing tensions between military forces and the Turkish government.

The investigation into the alleged coup plot has led to heightened political unease and conflicting judicial results. In late February, Turkish officials brought charges [JURIST report] against 11 military officials in connection with the coup just one day after three high ranking military officials were released [JURIST reports]. The release came after Turkey's prime minister and president met with the head of the armed forces, General Ilker Basbug, to discuss potential resolutions to the increased political strain. In response to the initial exposure of the plot in January, Turkish officials detained more than 40 people and 12 military officers were charged [JURIST reports] in connection with the alleged coup plot. After the most recent round of arrests, almost 70 military officials have been detained in connection with the alleged plot.

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