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Controversial probe

February 24, 2010

The EU has voiced concern over Turkey's plan to investigate an alleged coup plot from 2003, and warned that the trials of military officials must be 'exemplary' and 'fair.'

Protesters waving Turkish flags
Turkey has long been the site of protests between the secular and non-secular powersImage: AP

A Turkish court has formally charged and jailed seven senior Turkish military officers for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Islamic-leaning government back in 2003.

The European Commission said it was concerned about the "serious allegations" of coup plotting, and called for Ankara to run fair trials.

Tayyip Erdogan, speaking into a microphone
Erdogan's AKP party wants the army out of politicsImage: AP

"Turkish citizens are entitled to hear the entire truth on these cases," a spokeswoman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said. "That's why the investigation must be exemplary and carried out in full respect of the principles and standards of a fair judicial process."

Fanning the flames

The wiretap evidence and discovery of alleged military plans drafted in 2003 to overthrow the government led to the detention of about 50 commanders Monday.

A court in Istanbul ordered that four admirals, an army general and two staff colonels be jailed.

The controversial probe has fanned tensions in the already polarized country, dramatically escalating tensions between the military-backed secular establishment, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP party. The AKP, which came to power in 2002, is the offshoot of a now-banned Islamist movement.

Monday's arrests prompted an emergency meeting Tuesday of the army's four-star generals and admirals to discuss the "serious situation," a brief army statement said.

Bid to discredit the army?

AKP supporters say the army, which has unseated four governments and has traditionally wielded heavy political influence, must be forced to stop meddling in politics.

But opponents charge the AKP is using the guise of democratization to discredit the army, seen as the bulwark of the secular system.

The purported coup plot, codenamed "Operation Sledgehammer", was allegedly drawn up in 2003 at the Istanbul-based First Army, shortly after the AKP came to power.

Editor: Andreas Illmer