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Turkish officers face coup trial

About 200 serving and retired Turkish military officers have gone on trial accused of plotting to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government in 2003.

The trial is being held at a special court house in the town of Silivri, near Istanbul.

All 196 suspects, who are free pending trial, face between 15 and 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of "attempting to topple the government by force," according to the indictment, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

Prosecutors have not made public any evidence or details of the accusations, but the Taraf newspaper has published what it calls leaked copies of documents pertaining to an alleged conspiracy dubbed "Sledgehammer."

The allegations include plans to blow up at least two major mosques during Friday prayers; assassinate some Christian and Jewish leaders; and shoot down a Turkish warplane and blame it on Greece, the country's historic rival.

Taraf said the conspirators hoped the chaos would lead to calls for a military takeover, and planned to turn stadiums into open-air prisons capable of holding tens of thousands of detainees. The paper says it has provided the documents to prosecutors, who are using them in their case.

The military, which has overthrown three governments since 1960 and pressured an Islamic-led government to step down in 1997, has denied such a plot, saying documents used as evidence were from a military training seminar during which officers simulated a scenario of internal strife.

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