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Alleged military coup plotters stand trial in Turkey

Turkish military generals and officers face trial as they are accused of plotting to overthrow the country's government

AFP , Monday 15 Aug 2011
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A four-star general and dozens of other Turkish officers appeared in court Monday charged with plotting to overthrow the country's Islamist-rooted government in a coup.

General Bilgin Balanli and 28 others face between 15 and 20 years in jail if they are found guilty of planning to unleash a series of attacks designed to cause panic across the country, allowing them to launch a coup to unseat the government which took power in 2002.

Appearing in the courtroom at a detention centre near Istanbul Balanli, a former head of the country's military training academies and the highest-ranking officer indicted in the case, dismissed the charges as a "cowardly plot" to discredit Turkey's military.

NTV news channel said the presiding judge had to suspend the court session briefly because of the loud applause for Balanli in the public gallery.

About 40 top generals and admirals, equal to one tenth of the military brass, are already implicated in the alleged plot dubbed "Operation Sledgehammer."

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a liberal offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, says the plan was hatched shortly after the party took power in 2002.

Last year around 200 military officials were ordered to appear in connection with the case.

Tensions between Turkey's fiercely secularist military and the government have been building for years.

Since 1960, the military, which views itself as the defender of secularism in the country, has ousted four Turkish governments, including that of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's mentor Necmettin Erbakan in 1997.

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