ISTANBUL — An Istanbul court on Tuesday acquitted 236 military officers who had been convicted of trying to overthrow the government after the prosecutor said that evidence in the case had been forged.
In 2012, the officers, accused of participating in a plot called Sledgehammer that aimed to overthrow the government in 2003, were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. The case came under heavy scrutiny from forensic and legal experts who asserted that evidence had been compromised and was being used by Turkey’s Islamists to seek revenge on former oppressors in the military.
Last year, the constitutional court ruled that mishandling of the evidence had violated the defendants’ rights, which led to the suspects’ release and retrial.
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On Tuesday, the leading prosecutor in the retrial, Ramazan Oksuz, stated that the digital data in the file was not viable evidence. “We reached the conclusion that it is not possible to find any relation between the suspects and the digital data in question,” he said.
Although the government initially supported the case, officials now say that the evidence was manipulated by supporters of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Mr. Gulen, a former ally who now opposes Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has a network of supporters with influence within the police and judiciary who are widely believed to have led the Sledgehammer prosecution.