Turkish retired admirals released from custody

A Turkish court in Ankara ruled to release 14 retired admirals on probation, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Monday.

Ten out of the 14 admirals had been detained on April 5, with the remaining four ordered to report to the authorities themselves to testify due to their advanced age.

The ex-admirals are facing charges of conspiracy to commit crimes against the constitutional order over their alleged role in the preparation and dissemination of a declaration criticising the government, released on April 3. A total of 103 admirals signed the document.

The prosecutor handling the investigation demanded arrests for retired admiral Ergun Mengi, and to release on probation for the remaining 13. All 14 were freed by the court.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor said Mengi should have been arrested after an investigation pointed to the admiral as having sent a draft text to a WhatsApp group, and asking for contributions from other members.

In the declaration, the admirals condemned discussions on Turkey possibly leaving the 1936 Montreux Convention, which regulates access to the Black Sea over the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits. In the second half of the declaration, they said that the Turkish army was “obliged to continue to meticulously hold up the constitution’s fundamental values that cannot be changed and cannot be proposed for a change”, calling for secular and “contemporary” values in the institution.

“To come to this point from such a simple press statement is an accident in communication in the full sense of the phrase,” one of the released admirals, Cem Gürdeniz, told reporters. “Don’t look at us for the ones being responsible for this accident. The text is very clear, and it was prepared with good intentions.”