Retired Turkish Admirals held after speaking out over controversial plan to bypass the Bosporus.
Over a hundred retired Turkish admirals have fallen foul of the hard-line Erdogan government, after speaking out over Ankara’s plan to build a 45km-long canal that will bypass the Bosporus in the Turkish Straits, reports Al Jazeera.
Critics of the $10bn Istanbul Canal say the infrastructure project, one of several that have transformed the Turkish Straits since Recep Tayyip Erdogan took power in 2003, could threaten the free passage of ships between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and pose an environmental threat to Istanbul itself.
Free right of passage through the Bosporus was enshrined in law in the 1936 International Treaty of Montreux and nearly 40,000 vessels transit the often congested waterway each year.
The 103 admirals warned that the canal could undermine the treaty and indirectly threaten the Turkish interests it protects. However, Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “Canal Istanbul has no effect on Montreux and Montreux has no effect on Canal Istanbul.”
The Canal Istanbul website expands on the compatibility of the project and the treaty: “Since the construction of the Istanbul Canal project is planned not to completely eliminate the passage through the Turkish Straits but only bypassing the Bosporus part, the rules stipulated by the Montreux Convention will continue to apply,” the website said.
Police have detained 10 of the admirals on state security grounds and state prosecutors are investigating whether the open letter infringes on the constitution. Opponents of the Erdogan regime risk imprisonment, with thousands arrested and detained after a failed military coup five years ago.
The canal was first mooted in 2011 and if carried through would run from the Durusu region on the Black Sea coast to Kucukcekmece Lake on the Sea of Marmara.