Turkish courts have released under judicial supervision 14 retired admirals who were detained after they openly criticized a canal project dear to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a joint statement, by which they were accused by the president of calling for a coup, local media reported on Monday.
The Ankara 8th Criminal Court of Peace on Monday ruled to release 13 of the retired admirals under the judicial supervision measure of “not leaving their residential areas,” while Ergun Mengi, who was sent to the criminal court on duty with the request for an arrest, was released later the same day under an intercity and international travel ban.
Mengi was the person who drafted the declaration, according to the statements of the retired admirals taken at the prosecutor’s office, local media reports said.
The 14 retired admirals had been detained on charges of “using force and violence to overturn the constitutional order” as part of a probe launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into a statement signed by 104 retired admirals on April 4 that criticizes a canal project in İstanbul as well as a debate over the possibility of Turkey’s withdrawal from the Montreux Convention.
The official approval last month of plans to develop a 45-kilometer (28-mile) shipping lane in İstanbul comparable to the Panama or Suez canals has opened up a debate about Turkey’s commitment to the 1936 Montreux Convention, which is aimed at demilitarizing the Black Sea by setting strict commercial and naval rules on passage through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits leading to the Mediterranean.
The retired admirals were worried that the new canal’s construction would result in Turkey abandoning the 1936 treaty, angering Russia and losing its neutrality in the volatile region.
“Recently, the opening of the Montreux Convention to debate within the scope of the authority to withdraw from international treaties and the Canal Istanbul project is a cause for concern,” they said in the declaration.
Erdoğan was given the power to pull Turkey out of treaties without parliament’s approval in 2018, when he was elected for a second term as president, but this time under a presidential system of governance that granted him vast powers.
What made the admirals anxious was a landmark move by Erdoğan last month to withdraw Turkey from the İstanbul Convention, the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.