| GEO Pakistan|
| Turkey passes law limiting military courts|
| Updated at: 2040 PST, Saturday, June 27, 2009|
ISTANBUL: Turkey's parliament has passed legislation aimed at meeting European Union membership criteria to ensure military personnel are tried in civilian courts during peacetime rather than in military courts.
The legislation passed on Friday requires civilian courts to try members of the armed forces who are accused of crimes including threats to national security, constitutional violations, organising armed groups and attempts to topple the government, according to parliament's website.
The legislation comes amid renewed tensions between the powerful military and the government after a newspaper published a document this month that allegedly outlined an army plot to undermine the ruling AK Party, which traces its roots to an outlawed movement.
Chief of the Military General Staff Ilker Basbug on Friday said the document was a smear campaign against the armed forces. A military prosecutor ruled this week there was insufficient evidence for an investigation, but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that civilian prosecutors will now takeover the probe.
Ending the military's influence in politics is a key step the EU expects Turkey to take to advance its membership bid. The change to the penal code also says civilians cannot be tried in military courts unless the country is in a state of martial law or at war.
It was not clear if the changes to the penal code will affect the trial of military officers who have been charged in the so-called Ergenekon case investigating an alleged right-wing network that sought to topple the government.
Erdogan and the military have repeatedly faced off during the government's six-year rule over the AK Party's efforts to ease restrictions on religion in Turkey. The country's generals are the self-proclaimed guardians of Turkish secularism and have forced four governments from power since 1960.