Six Turkish generals remanded in custody over 1997 coup
ANKARA (Reuters) - Six retired generals, including former commanders of the land forces and air force, were remanded in custody on Tuesday over their alleged role in the 1997 toppling of Turkey's first Islamist-led government, Turkish media reported.
The generals were among 10 suspects detained in a fifth wave of arrests since early April in the latest affront to the once-supreme military, and widening an investigation into the ousting of former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan 15 years ago.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, AKP, which itself has Islamist roots, has made curbing the military's political influence one of its main missions, and state prosecutors have pursued officers suspected of conspiring against current and former governments.
Among those remanded in custody on Tuesday were former Air Force commander General Ahmet Corekci, former Land Forces commander General Hikmet Koksal and former Secretary-General of Turkey's National Security Council (MGK) General Ilhan Kilic.
Three suspects, including two retired generals, were released by the Ankara court and one former commander of Turkey's Gendarmerie, or paramilitary forces, was released on medical grounds. All 10 suspects had been arrested on Monday.
The arrests are the latest humiliation for generals who for decades had considered it their right to intervene in political affairs and had toppled four governments between 1960 and 1997.
Political reforms in 2010 to remove the immunity of old coup leaders have given prosecutors room to delve deeper into Turkey's history. The sight of police seizing white-haired former generals, unthinkable a decade ago, has become a familiar one in Turkey in recent years.
The generals will face charges of plotting to remove an elected government and preventing it fulfilling its duties.
Erbakan, who died of heart failure aged 85 in March last year, pioneered Islamist politics in Turkey, a largely Muslim country with a secular state order, and paved the way for the subsequent success of Erdogan's AKP.
The investigation into the events of 1997, known as the "post-modern coup" for its bloodless nature in contrast to other actions, has especial significance for Erdogan who was a member of Erbakan's party.
But while Erdogan has promoted the trials as part of the process of ending the generals' political power, he has more recently called for the investigations to be wrapped up more quickly, saying the arrests were disturbing the "social peace".
Some 365 officers, serving and retired, are currently being tried for involvement in another alleged coup plot against Erdogan's government known as "Operation Sledgehammer".
"Sledgehammer" dates back to 2003, a year after the AKP came to power, stirring secularist fears of an Islamist takeover.
It allegedly included plans to bomb historic mosques in Istanbul and trigger conflict with Greece. Defendants say the prosecution documents were part of a war game scenario used in a military seminar and that other documents were faked.
Separately, last month the landmark trial began of former General Kenan Evren, now 94, who led a coup in 1980 that led to the execution of 50 people, the torture of thousands, and disappearance of hundreds more in three years of military rule.
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