Judges in the trial of hundreds of Turkish military officers accused of plotting to overthrow the government agreed on Monday to give the defendants one last chance to argue their case as the two-year trial approaches its end.
In setting a new date for testimony, the court rejected the state prosecutor's request for a verdict at the latest hearing in the "Sledgehammer" trial, which has harmed the standing of Turkey's once all-powerful military.
Chief Judge Omer Diken said the four justices had voted unanimously to adjourn the hearing until Aug. 16 to allow the defendants and their lawyers "one last opportunity to have their say" before issuing their ruling.
Prosecutors have demanded 15 to 20-year jail sentences for the 364 serving and retired officers in the case, which revolves around a 2003 military seminar that prosecutors say was part of a plot to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.
The conspiracy is alleged to have included plans to bomb historic mosques in Istanbul and trigger conflict with Greece to pave the way for an army takeover.
The Turkish army has traditionally played a dominant role in politics, staging three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pushing the country's first Islamist-led government out in 1997.
But its authority has been checked since Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power nearly a decade ago.
A guilty verdict in the Sledgehammer case would underline further growing civilian dominance over the generals.
Public interest in a series of anti-government conspiracy cases has waned recently as the trials have dragged on amid growing suspicion among government critics that they were being used to crack down on dissent.
The prosecutor, Huseyin Kaplan, recommended in June that the case be referred back to the prosecutor's office, raising the possibility of a retrial. But he said on Monday this would unnecessarily lengthen pre-verdict detention periods of 250 officers held on remand.
The court also rejected requests by defence lawyers to release the defendants from custody pending a verdict and for further witnesses, including the former chief of the military General Staff Hilmi Ozkok, to testify.
Ozkok last week testified at another conspiracy case, dubbed Ergenekon, that the war games scenario had included real names, exceeding its purpose as an exercise.
He also said alleged coup plot plans had been brought to his attention during his tenure but he did not act as he was unsure of their authenticity.
It was not clear how long the final testimony would take. Defence lawyer Celal Ulgen said the defendants would refuse to testify in protest of the court's refusal to agree to their requests.
"The court shouldn't have bothered to adjourn. We are not going to defend ourselves unless the court accepts our two basic demands," Ulgen told Reuters outside of the courthouse.
"Let them announce the ruling whenever they want to."
The latest hearing followed a decision announced on Saturday by the Turkish armed forces to retire of all 40 generals and admirals jailed facing charges of conspiring against the government.
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