1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Turkey arrests

February 23, 2010

Police have been questioning former and current high-level military officers arrested in Turkey in connection with a 2003 plot to overthrow the government.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan
The military's power has waned since Erdogan came to powerImage: AP

Among the 49 military officers detained in Turkey on Monday were retired air force and navy commanders and the former deputy chief of armed forces. Istanbul police were questioning 29 of them at their headquarters, news broadcaster NTV reported.

Police also brought 10 of the arrested officers to an Istanbul court early on Tuesday, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency. The court is to decide whether to hold them in custody.

The series of arrests is one of the biggest against the military, which has ousted four governments since 1960 and considers itself to be the guardian of Turkey's secular tradition.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan commented on the arrests during an official visit to Madrid.

"After the security forces have finished this process, the judiciary will make its assessment," Erdogan said.

Coup plot

Supports of the AK Party wave flags
The ruling AK Party has support from voters and the European UnionImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The crackdown relates to the 2003 "sledgehammer" plot to overthrow the government, led by the Islam-rooted AK Party.

Media reports have said the military planned to provoke an attack from neighboring Greece and plant bombs inside Istanbul mosques and museums to incite chaos and justify a military coup. Military leaders have denied the accusations and claim the plot was only a hypothetical training scenario.

More than 200 people have been arrested since the story broke in 2007, including military officers, politicians, lawyers and writers. Critics of the government claim Prime Minister Erdogan has used the investigation to silence opposition.

Governmental power struggle

The AK Party, or Justice and Development Party, came to power only a year after its founding when it won a parliamentary majority in 2002 and ended decades of secularist rule.

The party brands itself as pro-market and pro-Western, favoring Turkey's bid for membership of the European Union. But the staunchly secular institutions of the military and judiciary have been in a deep power struggle with the government, which has solid electoral support.

Erdogan has sought parliamentary support to curb the power of judges and prosecutors, and has said he would call a referendum on a constitutional reform to the judicial system if plans in parliament fail.

His government has also moved to curb the military's influence in state affairs as part of a democratic reform plan aimed at eventual EU membership.

Editor: Chuck Penfold