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Turkish military officials arrested in coup investigation

Turkish authorities on Wednesday arrested two military officials alleged to have been involved in the Balyoz Security Operation Plan ("Sledgehammer" plot) [Taraf report, in Turkish; JURIST news archive], a military plot to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government. Lieutenant General Ziya Guler and officer Bulent Akalin were arrested after appearing in court [UPI report] to testify about documents related to the coup that were discovered last year. The Taraf [media website] newspaper revealed last year that the plot included plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane in order to undermine the government.

The alleged coup plot highlights the continuing power struggle between Turkey's ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] and the country's secular nationalist establishment, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) [official website, in Turkish]. Turkish police detained more than 40 people in connection with the plot in February 2010 and continued to bring charges against alleged perpetrators, but released three high ranking military officials [JURIST reports] just days later. 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 [DPA report; JURIST report] in violation of Turkey's secular constitution [text]. Trials against the Ergenekon group [JURIST report] opened over two years ago with more than 200 suspects in custody. The suspects include journalists, academics, army officers, policemen and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [JURIST report].

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