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Turkish coup plot trial delayed amid protests

Turkish judges on Monday delayed closing arguments in the trial of 275 individuals charged with plotting to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, Turkish]. Defendants were scheduled to deliver closing statements [AP report] on Monday, but mass protests outside the courtroom caused delays, as police used water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the thousands of demonstrators. Among those accused include retired generals, academics, politicians and journalists. Defendants are accused of being part of a secular terror group that allegedly plotted attacks as part of a military coup to overthrow the government, known as the Ergenekon plot [JURIST news archive]. The prosecution sought sentences as high as life in prison, while all of the defendants have maintained their innocence, rejecting all charges against them. The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday.

In September a Turkish court convicted more than 300 people for their roles in 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. 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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