Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

Turkey ex-generals charged over 'plot'

A Turkish policeman at the presidential palace.
Tension has risen between the military and the ruling party

Two retired Turkish generals have been charged over an alleged plot in 2003 to overthrow the government, reports say.

Cetin Dogan, former head of Turkey's First Army, and Engin Alan, a former special forces commander, were both remanded in custody pending trial.

They are the most senior of 33 suspects charged so far over the alleged plot.

The case has increased tensions between the military and the Islamist-rooted ruling party. However, the military has denied any coup plot.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to punish conspirators.

"No one is above law, no one has impunity," he told a gathering of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Justice pledge

"Those conspiring behind closed doors to trample on the nation's will from now on find themselves facing justice," Mr Erdogan said.

June 2007: Cache of explosives discovered; ex-soldiers detained
July 2008: 20 arrested, including two ex-generals and a senior journalist, for "planning political disturbances and trying to organise a coup"
July 2008: Governing AK Party narrowly escapes court ban
October 2008: 86 go on trial charged with "Ergenekon" coup plot
July 2009: 56 in dock as second trial opens
Jan 2010: Taraf newspaper reports 2003 "sledgehammer" plot to provoke coup
Feb 2010: Dozens officers arrested over "sledgehammer"; more than 30 charged

More than 49 people were detained on Monday over the alleged coup plot, in an operation of unprecedented scale.

Among the 33 officers charged are including seven navy admirals and four army generals.

The former heads of the air force and navy and a general were freed on Thursday, having been questioned by prosecutors.

The three - retired air force head Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek and former deputy army chief Ergin Saygun - have not been charged but remain under investigation, prosecutors said.

Ergenekon conspiracy

The army has intervened to overthrow elected governments four times since 1960.

Reports of the alleged plot first surfaced in the liberal Taraf newspaper, which said it had discovered documents detailing plans to bomb two Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane over the Aegean Sea.

The army has said the plans had been discussed but only as part of a planning exercise at a military seminar.

The alleged plot is similar, and possibly linked, to the reported Ergenekon conspiracy, in which military figures and staunch secularists allegedly planned to foment unrest, leading to a coup.

Scores of people, including military officers, journalists and academics, are on trial in connection with that case.

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