Former Turkish army chief on trial for 1997 coup

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Turkey's former army chief and more than 100 other suspects went on trial on Monday over a 1997 bloodless coup that toppled the country's first Islamist head of government.

General Ismail Hakki Karadayi stands accused with 102 co-defendants of “overthrowing the Turkish government by force.”

Prosecutors have called for a life sentence for Karadayi, who did not attend Monday's hearing at an Ankara court due to ill health.

The trial concerns the toppling in 1997 of Turkey's first Islamist head of government, Necmettin Erbakan, political mentor of current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The army brought down Erbakan's government without spilling a drop of blood and did not replace the civilian administration with the military.

A parade of tanks outside Ankara and an ultimatum addressed to Erbakan were all it took to overthrow his government without violence.

The army, which sees itself as the guarantor of Turkey's secular principles, had overthrown three earlier administrations in 1960, 1971 and 1980.

Since coming to power in 2002, Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has reined in the once-powerful military through a series of court cases.

In August, a Turkish court jailed former military chief General Ilker Basbug for life and imprisoned scores of other senior figures for their role in a conspiracy to overthrow Erdogan's government.

Last September, more than 300 active and retired army officers, including three former generals, received prison sentences of up to 20 years over a 2003 military exercise alleged to have been an undercover coup plot.