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Turkey’s Erdogan says not opposed to military coup plot retrials

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is seen during a joint news conference with his Libyan counterpart Ali Zeidan (not pictured) in Istanbul January 3, 2014.

CREDIT: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER

 (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said he would not oppose the retrial of hundreds of military officers convicted on coup plot charges, a case that underlined civilian dominance over a once all-powerful army.

Turkey’s appeals court in October upheld the convictions of top retired officers for leading a plot to overthrow Erdogan’s government a decade ago.

The military last week filed a criminal complaint over the court cases, saying evidence against serving and retired officers had been fabricated.

“There is not a problem for us about retrials as long as the legal basis is established. In terms of regulations, we are ready to do what we can,” Erdogan told reporters late on Sunday before leaving on an official visit to Asia.

He said he had a “positive” meeting on Saturday with the head of the Turkish bar association at which the cases were discussed and the justice minister was working on the issue.

The military complaint came as Erdogan’s government is weakened by a wide-ranging corruption investigation which has led to the resignation of three members of his cabinet and highlighted concern about the independence of the judiciary.

Erdogan’s backers accuse Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish cleric with strong influence in the police and judiciary and a former ally of the prime minister, of connivance in the corruption investigations. Gulen denies the allegation.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party is widely held to have relied on Gulen’s influence in breaking the power of the army – which carried out three coups between 1960 and 1980 and forced an Islamist-led government from power in 1997 – including by pursuing suspected coup plotters through the courts.

(Reporting by Seda Sezer; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Alison Williams)

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