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Turkish prosecutors order arrest of former military leaders

Prosecutors in Turkey ordered the arrest of dozens of former military leaders on Thursday for their alleged role in the ouster of former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan [NYT profile]. Prosecutors allege that the military leaders, including four retired generals, pressured Erbakan to resign in 1997. They further allege that the officers pressured the Islamist Erbakan to resign because he attempted to enhance the role of Islam in the Turkish government. Erbakan was a member of the Islamic Welfare Party [UNHCR backgrounder] when he was elected as prime minister in 1995. Although Turkey is predominately Islamist, the country's political system is secular. Turkish authorities searched the homes [AP report] of many of the suspects in connection with the arrests.

Turkey is currently involved in the trial of other former military leaders for a 1980 coup that led to three years of military rule, during which 50 people were hanged and half a million arrested. Early this month, the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court began the trial [JURIST report] of the last two surviving leaders of the 1980 coup, two retired generals, 94-year-old Kenan Evren [official profile], who held the presidential office for seven years following the military takeover, and 87-year-old former air force commander Tahsin Sahinkaya, who did not appear in court due to ill health. In June, Evren became the first military leader questioned since constitutional immunity was repealed in 2010. The court accepted the indictment against Evren and Sahinkaya in January, after the prosecution charged the two retired generals [JURIST reports] a week earlier. In August, the court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for seven generals and admirals relating to allegations that they created an anti-government website in 2009. After being detained for questioning in connection with their alleged coup plot, three high ranking military officials were released by the court, but remained under investigation.

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