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Trial of Turkish military officers on hold due to defense lawyers' boycott

A boycott by defense lawyers in the case of hundreds of Turkish military officers accused of plotting a coup against the government in 2003 caused the judge to refer the case on Friday to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office to break the deadlock. The trial stems from the Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish; Al Jazeera backgrounder], or "Sledgehammer" plot [JURIST news archive], which included plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane in order to undermine the government. The defense lawyers are boycotting [Reuters report] because of the judge's refusal to allow testimony from an expert witness who could refute the prosecution's evidence allegedly taken from confiscated computer files. Prosecutor Huseyin Kaplan, however, claims the defense is simply "trying to prevent the court from reaching a verdict" because they understand the verdict will be against their clients. The prosecutor's office will now decide whether to return the case to the criminal court in Silivri or to send it to another court. In the mean time, hundreds of defendants remain in jail without a conviction in the trial, which began in 2010 [JURIST report].

The judge's decision to refer the case to the prosecutor's office raised uncertainty about other pending conspiracy trials involving military coups. Last month, Turkish police arrested six former military officials [JURIST report] for involvement in the 1997 coup that caused Turkey's Islamist-led government to resign. In April, Turkey's Ankara 12th High Criminal Court began the trial [JURIST report] of the last two surviving leaders of the 1980 coup that led to three years of military rule. Former President Kenan Evren faces a possible life sentence [JURIST report] in that trial. In 2010, a Turkish court also began the trial [JURIST report] of 33 retired and active naval officers who allegedly planned to overthrow the government and implement military rule.

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