World Bulletin / News Desk
Fifteen active duty high-ranking military officers who stood trial without arrest but were sentenced to jail time in the Sledgehammer coup case, which concluded on Friday, have been arrested over the past two days.
Ten military officers were arrested on Sunday by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court. Arrest warrants were issued in absentia for these officers, including Maj. Gen. Ayhan Gümüş, Brig. Gen. Suat Dönmez and colonels Namık Sevinç, Erdinç Altıner, Fahri Yavuz Uras, Ergin Kılıç, Erdoğan Koçoğlu, Levent Ergün and Ali Cengiz Şirin. The generals and colonels were later sent to jail.
Of these 10, Gümüş was sentenced to 16 years in prison on coup plotting charges and the other suspects to 13 years, four months each.
The remaining five were arrested on Monday by the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court. Among the arrestees was Maj. Gen. Atilla Özler, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Sledgehammer is a suspected coup plot believed to have been devised in 2003 with the aim of unseating the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government through violent acts. According to the Sledgehammer plan, the military was to systematically foment chaos in society through acts of violence, among which were planned bomb attacks on the Fatih and Beyazıt mosques in İstanbul. The plot allegedly sought to undermine the government to lay the groundwork for a coup d'état. The military, which has overthrown three governments since 1960 and pressured a conservative government to step down in 1997, has denied the existence of such a plan.
The Sledgehammer trial, which began in 2010, was concluded on Friday by the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court at the 108th hearing of the case. The court handed down 20-year prison sentences to three retired generals who were key suspects in the case.
Former 1st Army Commander retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, former Air Force Commander Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına and former Navy Commander Adm. Özden Örnek were initially given life imprisonment but the court said the three would only serve 20-year sentences because they were unsuccessful in their bid to topple the government.
There were 365 suspects, all retired or active duty members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), in the Sledgehammer coup case, 250 of whom were under arrest during the trial.