Officials said this marked the largest crackdown on the military by the
Islamist government led by Erdogan.
"It would not be appropriate for me to talk about an issue that is
already handled by the judiciary," Erdogan said.
Turkish police, led by representatives of the prosecution, raided eight
cities in search for the suspects. Officials said the detainees included 17
retired generals, such as former air force commander Gen. Ibrahim Firtina
and naval chief Adm. Ozden Ornek.
"Things will get better when those who were never accountable for their
deeds begin to account for them," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said.
The military officers have also been accused of planning to shoot down a
Turkish fighter-jet and blame the incident on neighboring Greece. So far
none of the more than 400 defendants charged in the coup plot, who also
include academics, journalists and politicians, have been convicted.
Officials said the arrests have sparked alarm within the Turkish
military leadership. They said Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug had
postponed a scheduled trip to Egypt.
The government crackdown was launched despite warnings by Basbug that
the military would not sit quietly as its officers were being arrested in
the coup plot. In media interviews in mid-February, Basbug suggested that
the military would release classified information that would rebut the
charges by prosecutors.
The Erdogan government has played down the arrests. Interior Minister
Besir Atalay said the arrests stemmed from an order by the judiciary rather
than the political leadership.
"We have been following developments very closely," Atalay said.