Turkey questions officers, govt eyes referendum on judicial reform

Turkish police questioned military officers detained a day earlier and others were brought to court in an investigation into an alleged plot.

Turkey questions officers, govt eyes referendum on judicial reform

Turkish police on Tuesday questioned military officers detained a day earlier and others were brought to court in an investigation into an alleged plot to undermine the ruling government and trigger a military coup.

The police detained former heads of the air force and navy on Monday among 40 people held in the coup probes.

The swoop, one of the largest in the country against the armed forces, follows reports of several alleged plots in the past year.

Twenty-nine of those detained are currently being questioned at Istanbul police headquarters, news broadcaster NTV reported.

Ten officers were separately brought to an Istanbul court on Tuesday morning, state-run Anatolian news agency reported. The court will later rule on whether to remand them in custody.

The detainees were being questioned on suspicion of forming a group with the aim of overthrowing the government, according to the news channel.

Current armed forces chief General Ilker Basbug has postponed a trip to Egypt as a result of the investigation. The military has not commented on the issue yet.

Police detained retired Gen. Suha Tanyeli, the former head of General Staff's Strategic Research and Study Center (SAREM) and former 1st Army Commander retired Gen. Cetin Dogan in Istanbul.

Moreover, security forces detained retired Lieutenant General Engin Alan, general manager of the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation, in the northwestern province of Bursa.

Commenting on Monday's detentions, Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who is currently in Brussels to attend an EU meeting, said that "he would not comment on this issue without getting accurate information regarding the developments".

Earlier on Monday, Turkish police detained several other people including former Air Forces Commander retired General Ibrahim Firtina, former Naval Forces Commander retired Admiral Ozden Ornek, former 1st Army Commander retired General Ergin Saygun, retired Colonel Kubilay Aktas, former North Sea Area Commander retired Admiral Ahmet Feyyaz Ogutcu and former South Sea Area Commander retired Vice Admiral Lutfi Sancar.

Coup probes

Speaking in Madrid at the start of an official visit, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said more than 40 people were detained in the raids.

News channels put the number at 49, including 17 retired generals, four serving admirals, 27 officers and one enlisted man.

The suspects held in Ankara were flown to Istanbul for questioning over the "Sledgehammer" plot after police raids in the cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

According to previous media reports on the Sledgehammer plan, denied by the military, the army had plotted to provoke Greek fighter jets into shooting down a Turkish military jet and planned to plant bombs in mosques and museums in Istanbul to stir chaos.

Last month Taraf newspaper said it had obtained 5,000 pages of documents and tapes on the Sledgehammer plan, which was aimed at showing the AK Party was unable to protect the public and to justify an army takeover in 2003.

The military has said documents quoted by the paper were part of a military training seminar but were "never meant to be carried out and were not part of a conspiracy".

"I don't know what the result of this is, but after the security forces have finished this process the judiciary will make its assessment," Erdogan told a news conference.

Other senior military officers have been indicted on charges of planning a separate plot to overthrow the AK Party.

The alleged criminal network that came to be known as "Ergenekon" was revealed after police seized 27 grenades, TNT explosives and fuses in a shanty house in Istanbul on June 12, 2007 and Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into weapons.

Police waged several waves of operations in several provinces and detained dozens of people, including retired senior army officers, journalists, scholars and businessmen, for their alleged involvement in the network.

The 12th High Criminal Court which is hearing the case accepted three indictments with thousands of pages so far.

The culprits are charged with various crimes including attempting to overthrow the Turkish government with arms and acts of violence.

"Referendum on constitutional reform"

Turkish prime minister said his government was working over a constitutional amendment designed to introduce a reform to the country's judicial system.

Erdogan also said he would call a referendum on constitutional reform to overhaul the judicial system, if he fails to get parliamemt's backing for change to curb the power of judges and prosecutors.

"As the ruling party, we are working on the issue right now. And as soon as we wrap our preparations we will try to reach out to all opposition parties to find out whether they would make any contributions," Erdogan told reporters in Madrid.

Erdogan said the government was willing to create a consensus over the planned judicial reform together with the opposition parties.

"However, we know that the two major opposition parties in Turkey do not seem eager to extend any support. In that case, we would go on for a referendum if we secure enough votes at a parliamentary vote," Erdogan said.

Constitutional amendments in Turkey need a two-thirds majority of the parliament, which requires the government to receive support from opposition parties to pass the reform.

Votes from the Justice and Development (AK) Party's 337 deputies may put the planned reform on referendum as any constitutional amendment receiving more than 330 votes but less than 367 need to be submitted to popular vote.

"All civil society organizations and our people expect such a reform and I believe a referendum would bring about a result that would meet expectations," Erdogan said.

"The judicial system should be objective and independent at the same time," Erdogan said.

He did not give any timeframe for a possible referendum.

Turkey is due to hold its next general elections in 2011 and Erdogan has repeatedly denied he plans to call an early vote.


Agencies

Last Mod: 23 Şubat 2010, 13:07
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