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Turkish authorities replace prosecutors in coup plot trials

Turkish authorities on Thursday replaced lead prosecutors in the Ergenekon coup [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] investigations in response to criticism. The probe has resulted hundreds of arrests, with people awaiting or on trial, but has not yet delivered any verdicts. Among the hundreds arrested are 163 active and retired military officers. On Wednesday, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) [official website, in Turkish] criticized [press release, in Turkish] the slow pace of the trials and exonerating evidence being ignored. Several officers have been jailed due to their connection to a military seminar conducted at the time of the coup, which the TAF contends was unrelated:

The Turkish Armed Forces, which has avoided involvement in any action which would be interpreted as an intervention in an ongoing judicial process, has repeatedly explained what that seminar is, what it included and who joined the seminar with which instruction by delivering statements and informing the related authorities in a way so as not to affect the judiciary. ... While the picture is like this, it is hard to understand the continued detention of 163 active and retired Turkish Armed Forces personnel.
Representatives of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] and the Grand National Assembly [official website, in Turkish] were displeased [AP report] with the TAF's comment. The prosecutor switch was announced a month ago, a rumored reaction to recent arrests of journalists in February and March that have caused a UN rebuke [JURIST reports]. Turkey's detention of journalists was analyzed in the JURIST op-ed Justice Must be Brought to Turkish Journalists.

Trials of military and naval officials have been ongoing since December 2010 and June 2009, while detainment and trial of some suspects has been continuous since 2008 [JURIST reports]. Suspects are accused of attempting to overthrow the government and establish military rule in another plot planned by a group called Ergenekon. 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 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 50 years. Since the founding of the modern republic in 1923, the military has regarded itself as the defender of the secular legacy of founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile].

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