Turkish police fire tear gas at Ankara protesters
AFP, Thursday 13 Feb 2014

Turkish riot police on Thursday fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of protesters demanding the release of army officers jailed for plotting a coup.

"Freedom to patriots, end conspiracies," the protesters shouted as police blocked them from marching to parliament in the capital Ankara.

Last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was not against the retrial of hundreds of military officers controversially jailed for attempting to topple his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The government last week presented to parliament a bill clearing the way for the army officers to be retried.

Under the proposals, eight specially appointed courts that convicted the soldiers in mass trials in 2012 and 2013 will be abolished and their case files passed to Turkey's regular criminal courts.

The conciliatory gesture towards the military came as the embattled premier is facing a major corruption scandal which has implicated his entourage and dragged down some of his ministers ahead of March local elections.

Erdogan has blamed associates of an influential movement led by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen for instigating the corruption probe, and he has sacked thousands of police and prosecutors involved in the investigation.

Erdogan's willingness to mend fences with the once all-powerful military he has fought to rein in is seen as a bid to shore up support in his battle against the Gulen movement.