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Turkish court annuls arrest warrants for military coup plot suspects

A Turkish court on Friday annulled the arrest warrants issued for 102 Turkish military officers over an alleged 2003 coup plot. The officers, including 25 generals and admirals, were arrested last month [JURIST report] for allegedly participating in a coup plot referred to as "Operation Sledgehammer" [Al Jazeera backgrounder] after the Justice and Democracy Party (AKP) [party website], which has Islamic roots, came into power in 2002. The group planned to bomb mosques, increase tensions with Greece and cause political unrest to create interest in the public in overthrowing the party, which has unseated four Turkish governments since 1960 and promotes secularism. A total of 196 suspects were initially charged [JURIST report], and the trial for those remaining will begin on December 16 [Al Jazeera report]. The Turkish government issued the arrest warrants last month after authorities discovered the plot and brought those involved into custody, including Cetin Dogan, a four-star general who allegedly was in charge of the plot. Dogan was hospitalized for heart problems the day following his arrest.

Mass arrests of those involved in the coup plot began in February [JURIST report]. The Turkish courts are also conducting a trial [JURIST report] of 33 retired and active naval officers accused of a coup attempt in connection with a group called Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The accused were indicted in March [JURIST report] for allegedly planning to assassinate prominent members of Turkey's Christian and Jewish minority groups and blame Islamic terrorists for the deaths in order to weaken the AKP. If convicted, the Ergenekon defendants could face sentences ranging between seven-and-a-half and 15 years in prison. Trials against the Ergenekon group began two years ago [JURIST report] and nearly 200 people have been charged in connection with the alleged plot.

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