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Turkish coup plot probe hits snag

By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN
Turkey's long-ruling secular elite has opposed the Islamist-inspired government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey's long-ruling secular elite has opposed the Islamist-inspired government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Official denies reports prosecutors replaced for conducting unauthorized searches and raids
  • In February police arrested dozens of acting and retired senior military commanders
  • They were accused in plot to overthrow government, code-named "Sledgehammer"

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- The investigation into an alleged coup plot implicating dozens of high-ranking military commanders in Turkey hit a snag this week when two prosecutors leading the case were unexpectedly replaced.

A top official in Turkey's judiciary denied reports that the prosecutors had been replaced for conducting unauthorized searches and raids. Instead, Istanbul's chief prosecutor insisted the change in personnel was a routine procedure.

"These colleagues have not been suspended or cut off from their jobs," said Aykut Cengiz Engin, Istanbul's chief prosecutor, speaking to journalists on Tuesday.

"These colleagues have other investigations. They will continue to conduct their [other] important investigations."

Last February, police arrested dozens of acting and retired senior military commanders accused of an alleged plot to overthrow the government, code-named "Sledgehammer."

The arrests marked a dramatic setback for the once politically-dominant Turkish armed forces, which have overthrown four governments in the last half century.

The Sledgehammer investigation has also signaled a key turning point in the ongoing power struggle between the country's long-ruling secular elite and the Islamist-inspired elected government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Last week, authorities released a number of suspects from prison, including the alleged mastermind of the Sledgehammer plot, retired army general Cetin Dogan.

But in a bizarre twist, just days later, prosecutors reissued an arrest warrant for Dogan and at least three of his alleged co-conspirators.

"This re-arrest warrant is against legal procedures," said Dogan's lawyer, Celal Ulgen, in a telephone interview with CNN.

Ulgen said his client had not yet been taken back into custody because he is currently being treated at a military hospital for a hernia.