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 ?stanbul 13th High Criminal Court. Arrest warrants were issued in absentia for these officers, including Maj. Gen. Ayhan Gümü?, Brig. Gen. Suat Dönmez and Cols. Nam?k Sevinç, Erdinç Alt?ner, Fahri Yavuz Uras, Ergin K?l?ç, Erdo?an Koço?lu, Levent Ergün and Ali Cengiz ?irin. The generals and colonels were later sent to jail.
Of these 10, Gümü? 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 ?stanbul 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 Beyaz?t mosques in ?stanbul. 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 ?stanbul 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 Do?an, former Air Force Commander Gen. Halil ?brahim F?rt?na 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.
The court’s ruling, the first of its kind as coup plotters or perpetrators in Turkey have so far gone unpunished, has drawn severe criticism from those who stood trial, their relatives and those who claim the trial was “politically motivated.” They accused the court of depriving the suspects of a fair trial.
Seventeen convicts have so far objected to the verdict and submitted a petition to the ?stanbul 10th High Criminal Court. The petition will be forwarded to the Supreme Court of Appeals after the court releases its reasoned opinion.
The ruling was also criticized by a CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman, Muharrem ?nce, who said at a press conference on Monday that “putting officers from the Turkish military in jail is part of a project to establish Kurdistan.”
“Turkey is drifting towards a breakup,” ?nce further stated.