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Turkish prosecutor calls for verdict against military officers in 2003 coup

The Turkish state prosecutor on Monday urged the court to move to a verdict in the case of hundreds of Turkish military officers accused of plotting a coup against the government in 2003. The prosecution has demanded 15 to 20 years of imprisonment [Reuters report] for the 364 officers, currently in office or already retired. Prosecutor Huseyin Kaplan said that the prosecution office does not want the case to be transferred but rather that the court should proceed to the ruling stage because such a transfer would lengthen the pre-trial detention of the accused. The issue of transfer arose out of the boycott of the defense lawyers [JURIST report] in June 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. Kaplan had argued that the defense lawyers took such a measure only to delay the verdict because it would be unfavorable to them. 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 trial was opened [JURIST report] in December 2010.

Turkey had faced numerous military coups in the past before the 2003 plot. Trials against the perpetrators in the coups are still ongoing. However, the judge's decision to refer the 2003 case to the prosecution had raised uncertainty related to the other conspiracy trials involving military coups. In May, Turkish police arrested [JURIST report] six former military officials for their involvement in the 1997 coup which led Turkey's Islamist-led government to resign. The six officials were among the 10 suspects prosecutors included in their arrest warrants charging them with participating in forcing the resignation of Necmettin Erbakan [NYT profile], an Islamist prime minister. In April the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court began its trial [JURIST report] of the last two surviving leaders of Turkey's 1980 coup, former general Kenan Evren [official profile], who may face possible life sentence [JURIST report], and former air force commander Tahsin Sahinkaya. The coup led to three years of military rule, during which 50 people were hanged and half a million arrested. The trial came after the court accepted the indictment against the two officials in January based on charges pressed [JURIST reports] by the prosecution a week earlier. 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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