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Turkish court sentences former military officers for coup plot

A Turkish court on Friday delivered the first of more than 300 verdicts expected in the trial examining the 2003 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. Three former military officers were sentenced to 20 years in prison each [Anatolia report, in Turkish] for their involvement in the coup. The court also handed out lesser sentences to several other defendants and acquitted 36. A total of 365 military officers [BBC report] were charged in the case. The prosecution alleged that military officers planned to create tension with Greece in order to facilitate a military coup. Defense lawyers for some of the defendants have already indicated that they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights [official website].

The court's decision on Friday indicates a shift in the balance of power in Turkey, where military coups have been attempted several times in recent decades. In June 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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