ISTANBUL (Reuters) - An Istanbul court ordered on Sunday the rearrest of 19 serving and retired military officers charged over an alleged plot to overthrow the government, broadcaster CNN Turk reported.
Among the 19, who were freed from detention on Thursday pending trial, were retired four-star general Cetin Dogan, the former head of Turkey’s First Army, and lieutenant-general Engin Alan, a former special forces commander.
Their original arrest in February had fuelled strains between the secularist establishment and the Islamist-rooted government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The tensions have also caused unease in Turkey’s financial markets.
The officers are linked to the alleged 2003 “Sledgehammer” plot, which media reports say involved plans to bomb an historic mosque, shoot down a fighter jet and blame Greece, and arrest hundreds of thousands of people to destabilise and ultimately to overthrow the government.
The military, which has traditionally viewed itself as the guardian of Turkey’s secular system, has denied such a plot. It has said Sledgehammer was part of a war-games scenario used at a training seminar.
CNN Turk did not specify the court’s reason for ordering their rearrest, which followed an appeal by prosecutors against their release.
The 19 facing rearrest consist of 11 serving officers and eight retired ones.
The most senior of them, former general Dogan, is currently in hospital awaiting treatment for a hernia.
The armed forces have overthrown three governments in outright coups since 1960 and pressured Turkey’s first Islamist-led administration to resign in 1997.
Any fresh military attempt to intervene in politics is now regarded as highly unlikely. The army retains considerable influence in Turkey but its power has been eroded in recent years under political reforms encouraged by the European Union, which Turkey is bidding to join.
Writing by Daren Butler; editing by David Stamp