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Turkey ex-general testifies over 'coup' threat

Yasar Buyukanit testifies to prosecutors at his Istanbul residence as a suspect in the case
Turkish General Chief of Staff Yasar Buyukanit (L) and then Turkish Prime Minister and Recep Tayyib Erdogan(R) in Istanbul on 24 July 2008 (AFP)

Turkish prosecutors on Monday took testimony from a former top army general who warned the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2007 in a memorandum not to erode the country's secular values.

The ailing Yasar Buyukanit, 75, testified to prosecutors at his Istanbul residence as a suspect in the case which was launced in 2012, the private Dogan news agency reported.

Buyukanit, Turkey's chief of the general staff from 2006-2008, is being investigated for "crimes against the constitutional order", it added. 

He wrote the hugely unusual document that appeared on the website of the Turkish armed forces late on April 27, 2007 and said the armed forces were following with concern the debate over secular values under the rule of the Islamic-rooted AKP, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The statement, sometimes dubbed the "e-memorandum" or even attempted "e-coup", threatened intervention to protect secular supporters who were being denounced in pro-AKP demonstrations.

Buyukanit, who has admitted writing the memorandum, and other key commanders were placed under investigation by prosecutors in 2012. But this was the first time he gave evidence.

Erdogan, who became premier in 2003 and is now president, moved to clip the wings of the military which had in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997 staged coups to remove incumbent governments.

The e-memorandum was seen by AKP supporters, fearing the document was the precursor of yet another coup, as flagrant interference by the army in politics. 

The military is regarded by some as the guardian of Turkey's secular system although its political influence has waned considerably since Erdogan came to power.

The two last surviving leaders of the 1980 coup -- former top general Kenan Evren and former air force general Tahsin Sahinkaya -- also both died earlier this year.