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Politics

Turkey Detains 10 Ex-Admirals Over Statement on Straits Treaty

ANKARA — Turkish authorities on Monday detained 10 former admirals after a group of more than 100 retired top navy officers issued a statement that government officials tied to Turkey's history of military coups.

The 10 retired admirals were detained as part of an investigation, launched by the chief prosecutor in Ankara on Sunday, over suspicions that they had reached "an agreement with the aim of committing a crime against the security of the state and the constitutional order," Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Four others were not detained because of their advanced ages, but they were asked to report to authorities within three days, Anadolu reported.

Authorities stripped the suspects of their rights to government lodgings and bodyguards, Anadolu reported, even before the investigation is concluded. 

A total of 103 retired admirals signed the statement declaring their commitment to an international treaty that regulates shipping through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, which link the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea. The 14 suspects are believed to have organized the declaration.

The statement was issued amid a debate over whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who withdrew Turkey from a international convention to protect women last month, could also pull the country out of the 1936 Treaty of Montreux, which regulates the passage through the straits, and other international treaties. 

Erdogan's plan to build an alternative waterway to the north of Istanbul that would bypass the Bosporus also sparked a debate over the Montreux treaty.

"The fact that withdrawing from the Montreux Convention was opened to debate as part of talks on Canal Istanbul and the authority to exit from international treaties was met with concern," the retired admirals said in a declaration released late Saturday.

The statement triggered strong condemnation by ruling party and government officials who drew a parallel with statements that accompanied past military takeovers in Turkey. 

More officials spoke out against the admirals on Monday.

Fahrettin Altun, the presidential communications director, described the statement as finger-waving "at the nation's will and its elected representatives, as a leftover habit of the old guardianship regime."

"We cannot and do not view (the statement) as innocent," he said.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, a former chief of military staff, said the declaration served no purpose other than to "harm Turkey's democracy, break the Turkish Armed Forces' personnel's morale, and please our enemies."

Turkey experienced coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980, and a 1997 military intervention caused the resignation of an Islamist-led coalition government. In 2016, a failed coup led to more than 250 deaths.

Anadolu reported that those detained include Cem Gurdeniz, the name behind Turkey's controversial "Blue Homeland" doctrine, which claims vast sections of the Mediterranean and Aegean and its undersea energy deposits. The concept is at odds with Greece and Cyprus' claims in the region.

The suspects were detained at their homes in Ankara, Istanbul and Kocaeli, and were to be questioned by the chief prosecutor's office in the capital.

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