Turkish authorities arrested yesterday War Academies’ commander, Air Chief Marshal Bilgin Balanli, as a suspect in the “Sledgehammer” case. Balanli, who was going to become chief of the Turkish Air Force, is the highest ranking military officer on active duty arrested in the country, and charged for conspiracy against Erdogan’s government.
Air Chief Marshal Balanli is accused of having prepared the Operation Plan Oraj (Storm), after an oral command of the currently jailed for the “Sledgehammer” case Ibrahim Firtina, who was commander of the War Academies in 2003. The plan was concerning the harassment of Greek aircrafts in the Aegean Sea, aiming at the creation of a war atmosphere and the “insurance” of a Turkish aircraft’s demolition by Greek fighting ones. The plan had also arranged that in case no Turkish aircraft had fallen, a Turkish pilot would have shot down an aircraft of the Turkish Air Force. The Turkish Prime Minister avoided commenting on Balanli’s arrest, which most probably will inflame new tensions between secularists and islamists in Turkey, just two weeks before the general elections of the 12th of June. According to Turkish media, the arrests of high-ranking military officers is the reason why last week’s exercises in the Aegean Sea were cancelled.