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Turkish PM backs coup retrials

January 6, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he favors retrials for hundreds of army officers jailed for plotting a coup. His remarks seem to signal a shift in alliances within the country's power structure.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said he would not oppose the retrial of hundreds of military officers convicted of plotting a coup to overthrow the government a decade ago.

His comments come after the military last week filed a criminal complaint over the 2012-2013 trials, saying some of the evidence against officers had been fabricated.

"Our position on a retrial is a favorable one," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul late on Sunday evening.

"There is not a problem for us about retrials as long as the legal basis is established. In terms of regulations, we are ready to do what we can," he added.

In 2013, former army chief General Ilker Basbug was jailed for life and a large number of army officers, journalists and lawyers received other prison sentences for their role in the so-called "Ergenekon" conspiracy, an alleged plot to overthrow Erdogan's government.

And in 2012, more than 300 active and retired military officers were sentenced to prison terms after the court ruled that an army exercise in 2003, codenamed "Sledgehammer," was also an undercover coup plot against the government.

The mass trials are widely thought to have been masterminded by the powerful movement of Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled Muslim cleric living in the US state of Pennsylvania.

Political turmoil

But Erdogan's ruling AKP party has since become embroiled in a bitter feud with Gulen's Hizmet brotherhood over government plans to shut down its network of schools.

Erdogan's backers now accuse Gulen of orchestrating a probe into corruption within the government that has led to the resignation of three cabinet members and created a situation of political turmoil. Gulen denies any involvement with the scandal.

Erdogan claims the corruption investigation is a plot by internal and foreign enemies to topple his government, and has reacted by purging the police - which he once backed as a counterbalance to the military.

Media commentators have interpreted the latest moves to review the coup trials as a new de-facto alliance between Erdogan and the army against Gulen's movement.

The corruption scandal implicating Erdogan's entourage has resulted in Turkey's currency hitting record lows against the US dollar and the undermining of investor confidence.

Turkey is scheduled to hold elections in March.

tj/jm (AFP, Reuters)