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Turkish court indicts 196 in connection with alleged coup plot

A Turkish criminal court Monday accepted the indictment [summary, in Turkish] of 196 defendants, including four retired military officers, over an alleged coup plot. The 2003 Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish; Al Jazeera backgrounder], or "Sledgehammer" plot, which included plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane in order to undermine the government, was revealed by the Taraf [media website] newspaper in January. The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] and alleges that the plot was crafted in an Istanbul army base shortly after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] took power in November 2002. Prosecutors are calling for prison sentences of 15 to 20 years [Reuters report] for the defendants. The military has maintained that the plot is a war game exercise. The trial date has not been set [ANA report]. In February, a Turkish court charged an additional 11 military officers [JURIST report] in the plot and arrested 18 more. Additionally in February, 40 military officers and 12 high-ranking Turkish military officers [JURIST reports] were arrested and charged for their involvement in the plot.

In June, the trial of 33 retired and active naval officers began [JURIST report]. The officers were accused of attempting to overthrow the government and establish military rule in another plot planned by a group called Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The group allegedly planned to assassinate prominent members of Turkey's Christian and Jewish minority groups, blame Islamic terrorists for the deaths and use this to delegitimize the AKP. Prosecutors in the case will attempt to link [BBC report] the 33 defendants to a plan to detonate a bomb in an Istanbul museum and the deaths of a Catholic priest, Protestant missionaries and journalist Hrant Dink. The investigations have strained relations between the religiously-inclined government and the secular military, which has been responsible for four coups in the last fifty years. Since the founding of the modern republic in 1923, the military has regarded itself as the defender [Guardian report] of the secular legacy of founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile].

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