Secular Turks protest army arrests in coup cases

Secular Turks, including the wives of defendants charged with trying to topple the government, marched to the tomb of Ataturk.

Secular Turks protest army arrests in coup cases

Secular Turks, including the wives of defendants charged with trying to topple the government, marched to the tomb of the founder of modern Turkey on Saturday to protest at the arrests of army officers.

Public opinion was behind the government following the first arrests back in 2007, as few Turks want a return to coups that blighted the late 20th Century, but skepticism set is as the investigations broadened and many suspects have been held on remand for more than two years with no end in sight.

More than 150 active and retired military officers are in jail during hearings in the Sledgehammer coup trial, at which prosecutors say they planned to overthrow in 2003 Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party.

The military leadership denies any coup plots.

Some 3,000 people gathered in a heavy rain at Anitkabir, the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former officer who led Turkey to independence after World War One, founded the secular republic in 1923 and served as its first president.

They carried flags and shouted "Turkey is secular and will stay secular" and "The army and the people are hand in hand".

Nilufer Cetin told Reuters her husband, an admiral, had been detained three times in Sledgehammer, most recently last week.

"We want our voices to be heard, we are the victims here," she said. "Our country is being victimised."

Separately, Turkey's top general Isik Kosaner, accompanied by the commanders of the army, navy and air force, spent 3-1/2 hours at the Hasdal Military Prison near Istanbul on Friday meeting 120 defendants charged in Sledgehammer, NTV news channel reported.

The military is Turkey's self-proclaimed protector of secularism in a country that is 99.9 percent Muslim. Generals have toppled three governments since 1960 and pressured a fourth, Turkey's first Islamist-led, to quit in 1997. But European Union-inspired reforms have curbed the military's influence and generals only occasionally interfere in domestic politics.

Besides military officers, dozens of journalists, academics, lawyers and activists have been arrested on links to different alleged coup plots since 2008. None have been convicted to date.

On Friday, Soner Yalcin, a prominent journalist, was charged with links to a shadowy, ultra-nationalist group nicknamed Ergenekon.

The AK Party government has recently become the target of harsh criticism on the grounds that it ordered civilian prosecutors and judges to arrest dozens of retired and active duty members of the military on coup charges. The government, however, denies exerting influence or pressure on prosecutors and judges regarding the case.

Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Şubat 2011, 13:31
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