Turkish military ponders promoting commanders implicated in coup plot

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's military has decided that 11 generals and admirals charged with conspiring to overthrow the government are eligible for promotion, several newspapers reported Sunday, citing unidentified military officials.

Promotions for the officers, all of who still remain free despite arrest warrants for them, could worsen tensions between the historically secular military and Turkey's Islamic-rooted government.

The 11 active-duty officers were among 102 retired and active duty officers ordered jailed in the coup plot case last week. The prosecution began in February after a newspaper, Taraf, published what it said were leaked copies of documents detailing their plans. The newspaper claimed the officers and others plotted to blow up mosques in the hopes of stirring chaos that could trigger a military takeover, and even planned to turn stadiums into open-air prisons capable of holding tens of thousands of people if they challenged the troops. The newspaper handed over the documents to prosecutors.

The military, which has overthrown four governments since 1960, has denied such a plot, insisting the documents were from a military training seminar during which officers simulated a scenario of internal strife. Critics allege the cases are built on flimsy evidence and illegal wiretaps. They say the accusations are a government attempt to silence opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Either way, the court cases reflect the growing confidence of civilian power in Turkey, whose politics were once dominated by the military.

The government opposes the promotion of the 11 officers but the final decision will be made by a high military council that convened Sunday and meets for four days, leading Hurriyet newspaper said, citing military sources. Erdogan was chairing the Council.

Phones rang unanswered at military headquarters Sunday and the prime minister's office said it had no comment.

The accused face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of attempting to bring down the government and having membership in an illegal organization.