Turkey detained ten retired admirals after an open letter voicing worry that the government’s Canal Istanbul plans could undermine the 1936 Montreux Convention.
Ankara sees the letter signed by more than 100 retired navy officers and posted online as reminiscent of past coups. The most recent Turkish coup attempt was in 2016.
The letter voiced concern over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plan to create a new waterway, Istanbul Canal, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara to ease maritime flows through the Bosporus and Dardanelles.
The proposal is seen by some as challenge to the Montreux Convention, which regulates the right of passage through the straits. The international treaty allows all commercial ships to sail through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits and limits the passage of foreign warships.
“We are of the opinion to refrain from any kind of rhetoric or action that could make the Montreux Convention… a matter of controversy,” the letter says.
The public prosecutor in charge of terrorism is now investigating the signatories for “agreement to commit crimes against the security of the state,” according to state-run Anadolu Agency, and called on four other retired officers to turn themselves in within three days. The prosecutor is investigating whether the officers have any links to serving members of the military.
The new canal currently under construction will not be subject to the Montreux convention. Turkey and Erdogan have failed to declare that Turkey will respect the convention as a matter of custom and has now jailed those calling her to do so.
The Montreux Convention allows the free passage to commercial ships and regulates the passage of warships.
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