Turkey court upholds convictions for top officers over coup

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Turkey’s appeals court Wednesday upheld the convictions of scores of top retired military officers over a 2003 coup plot but overturned jail sentences handed to dozens of lower-ranking defendants.

The court in Ankara confirmed an earlier ruling that found the former commanders of the army, navy and air force guilty of plotting to oust Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government and sentenced them to 20 years behind bars.

The appeals court also upheld the acquittal of 34 officers accused of involvement in the plot named “Sledgehammer,” referring to a 2003 army exercise.

And it quashed jail sentences handed down to dozens of lower-ranking officers.

In September 2012, a lower court convicted more than 300 military officers for the 2003 plot.

The three “masterminds,” former First Army commander Cetin Dogan, former air force commander Ibrahim Firtina and former naval chief Ozden Ornek initially received life sentences -- the heaviest possible since Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004.

But their sentences were commuted to 20 years, on the grounds that their plan to unseat the government fell through “due to reasons beyond their control,” the court ruled.

The so-called Sledgehammer plans first came to light in January 2010, after the liberal Taraf newspaper published documents, diary entries and sound recordings of some of the generals outlining plans to bomb mosques to provoke internal conflict.

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