Turkish authorities on Monday arrested 10 former admirals after a group of more than 100 retired navy officers issued a statement that government officials tied to Turkey’s history of military coups.
State-run Anadolu news agency said the retired admirals were detained as part of an investigation into their open letter, which was launched by the chief prosecutor in the capital, Ankara.
Turkey’s approval last month of plans to develop a shipping canal in Istanbul comparable to the Panama or Suez canals has opened up debate about the 1936 Montreux Convention.
In their letter, 104 retired admirals said it was “worrying” to open the Montreux treaty up to debate, calling it an agreement that “best protects Turkish interests”.
The Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office said arrest warrants were issued for the 10 and ordered four other suspects to report to Ankara police within three days, opting not to detain them because of their age.
The prosecutor launched a probe on Sunday into the retired admirals on suspicion of an “agreement to commit a crime against the state’s security and constitutional order”.
The former senior military leaders are accused of “using force and violence to get rid of the constitutional order”, NTV broadcaster reported.
The detentions come a day after the open letter signed by 104 retired admirals was sharply condemned by the presidential office, which said the move was “reminiscent of coup times” during Turkey’s past.
Anadolu reported that those detained include Cem Gurdeniz, the name behind Turkey’s controversial “Blue Homeland” doctrine, which claims vast sections of the Mediterranean and Aegean and its undersea energy deposits. The concept is at odds with Greece and Cyprus’ claims in the region.
The doctrine has grown in prominence, especially during tensions last year between Greece and Turkey over Ankara’s gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
It argues Turkey has rights to substantial maritime borders including the water surrounding some Greek islands, much to Athens’ chagrin.
The Montreux Convention ensures the free passage through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits of civilian vessels in times of both peace and war.
It also regulates the use of the straits by military vessels from non-Black Sea states.