A Turkish court has ordered the release of several retired naval commanders who were arrested for criticizing the government. The issue relates to a controversy within Turkey over a treaty regulating maritime traffic through Istanbul.
The court in the capital, Ankara, ruled on Monday that the 14 retired admirals were to be released, according to the Turkish news outlet Ahval.
Turkish police detained the 10 admirals on April 5. The arrests followed an open letter to the Turkish government from more than 100 former officers on the domestic debate on the 1936 Montreux Convention. This convention regulates naval traffic in Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait and the Black Sea, and the former officers are concerned Turkey may pull out of it. Due to the history of coup attempts in Turkey, the government saw the criticism as a threat.
The court released the 10 admirals on probation. An additional four admirals who were initially required to report to court themselves due to their old age were also released on probation, according to Ahval.
The Montreux Convention gives Turkey sovereignty over the strategic Bosporus Strait that links Asia and Europe. It allows free passage of merchant ships but restricts military vessels.
The current debate began in late March when Turkish parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop said on television that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had the authority to withdraw from the convention. Some observers viewed this as evidence that Erdogan sought to withdraw from the treaty in an effort to undo the legacy of the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk. Erdogan’s Muslim conservatism contrasts with Ataturk’s secular brand of nationalism.