ANKARA: A former Turkish military chief has been released pending trial after authorities detained him for his alleged role in a 1997 coup that forced an Islamic-leaning government from power, local media reported Friday.
The decision came late Thursday after the retired general, Ismail Hakki Karadayi, testified before an Ankara court as part of a probe launched in 2011 that has resulted in the arrests of dozens of military officers.
The ex-general was released but will be kept under judicial control, the private NTV television reported. He was also banned from travelling overseas.
Karadayi was the head of the military chiefs of staff in 1997 -- the last time Turkey's once all-powerful military was involved in changing the government, when it forced the Islamic-rooted premier Necmettin Erbakan to step down.
The events of 1997 are popularly referred to in Turkey as a "post-modern coup" since they involved no troops and the deposed cabinet was not replaced by a military one.
Erbakan was forced to step aside after a series of warnings from the army, which in February 1997 ordered scores of tanks to roll through the streets of Ankara in what was seen as a show of power against the government.
Turkey's once-powerful military, considered the self-appointed guardian of Turkish secularism, has toppled four governments in half a century.
Tensions have been rising for years between the military and the current Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a disciple of Erbakan.
Hundreds of suspects, including army officers, journalists and lawmakers, are being tried separately over their alleged roles in plots to topple Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has sought to decrease the army's influence in politics.
In September more than 300 retired and active military officers received prison sentences of up to 20 years after the court ruled their "Sledgehammer" exercise in 2003 was an undercover coup plot.
Pro-government circles have praised the investigations as a step toward democracy but critics have branded them witch-hunts aimed at stifling opposition.