ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Turkey has detained 10 retired admirals for signing a statement in support of an 85-year-old maritime accord, accusing them of conspiring against the constitutional order, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Monday.
Officials said their declaration on the Montreux Convention, signed by more than a hundred former high-ranking navy personnel, was a direct challenge to civilian government and evoked past army interventions.
Turkey's military staged three coups between 1960-1980 and pressured the first Islamist-led government out of power in 1997.
The admirals are suspected of conspiring against state security and constitutional order, news website Haberturk said. Anadolu said four other suspects were called to report to police within three days as part of the probe into the statement.
The retired military personnel had voiced concern over Montreux - which they said was strategically important for Turkey's maritime security - given President Tayyip Erdogan's authority to withdraw from such pacts, and his move last month to ditch an international accord meant to prevent violence against women.
The statement came as the government moves forward with plans to construct a massive canal connecting the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Sea of Marmara to the south, parallel to the Bosphorus strait.
A Turkish official has said the Montreux Convention would not cover the canal.
Montreux, signed in 1936, gives Turkey control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits within its borders, and during peacetime guarantees access for civilian vessels. It also limits access of naval warships and governs foreign cargo ships.
"Montreux provided Turkey the possibility to maintain its neutrality during World War II," said the statement by the retired military officials.
"There is a need to avoid any statements and actions that could cause the Montreux convention, an important treaty in terms of Turkey's survival, to be brought up for discussion."
The secularist armed forces were once the dominant force in Turkey but Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party have eroded their influence since coming to power in 2002.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the statement had the hallmarks of a military plot to overthrow the government.
"A group of retired soldiers are putting themselves into a laughable and miserable position with their statement that echoes military coup times," he said.
(Reporting by Can Sezer and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Stephen Coates, Jonathan Spicer and Giles Elgood)