A total of 49 officers, some retired, some still in active service, including the former commanders of the air force and navy have been detained by police on the orders from the prosecutors investigating the Ergenekon case in Istanbul on charges of planning to spread turmoil in the country to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
The police operation conducted simultaneously in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and other cities also included searching the homes and offices of the detained officers. They included retired four-star generals Ibrahim Firtina, the former commander of the air force, Cetin Dogan, the former commander of the 1st Army headquartered in Istanbul, retired admiral Ozden Ornek, the former commander of the navy and others like Engin Alan who conducted the operation of special forces unit that arrested PKK (Workers Party of Kurdistan) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya in 1999 and Ergin Saygun who served as the deputy chief of staff before his retirement.
Among the 49 detained officers 20 are still in active service. All the detainees were brought to Istanbul for questioning by the prosecutors.
The detentions are related to the alleged Sledgehammer Plan that included planting bombs at historical mosques during Friday prayers, shooting down a Turkish air force jet over the Aegean to create a confrontation with Greece and round up some 200,000 people at stadiums.
The so-called Sledgehammer Plan was discussed during a military exercise held at the headquarters of the 1st Army at the historical Selimiye barracks in March 2003 with the participation of more than 100 top-ranking officers. The plan was published by the Taraf newspaper in January after an unidentified officer delivered a suitcase full of documents about the military plans to a reporter. Following the publication of allegations, the documents were given to the prosecutors who launched their investigation.
According to press reports the documents were scrutinized by the forensic section of the police as well as the Turkey’s Scientific and Technical Research Institute (TUBITAK) and the Internet Provider (IP) codes led the investigators to the computers at the 1st Army barracks.
The wave of arrests within the military is unparalleled in Turkish history with top-ranking generals who had served at the most critical posts finding themselves under detention.
Prime Minister Erdogan who was in Spain when police was rounding up officers refused to comment on the move saying that it is now up to the jurisdiction to decide whether the allegations were true.
However, Deniz Baykal, the opposition leader, claimed that the detention of such a large number of top officers was reminiscent of military coups spreading alarm and shock among the public.