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Turkey's military has brought down four governments since 1960

The Turkish government has suspended two generals and an admiral accused of being linked to a plot against the ruling Justice and Development Party.

It is believed to be the first time in modern Turkish history that a civilian government has suspended serving military figures of such high rank.

The three men have appealed to military judges to cancel the decision.

They are among nearly 200 suspects due to go on trial next month, charged with attempting to overthrow the government.

Those involved in the so-called “sledgehammer” plot allegedly conspired to provoke a military takeover in the months following the ruling party's (AKP) first election victory in 2002.

They are said to have been concerned by the party's Islamist roots.

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Jonathan Head
BBC News, Istanbul
The three officers were removed from their posts under a law that dates back 60 years. Until now that law had never been invoked by a civilian government.

They are among nearly 200 suspects due to go on trial next month for alleged involvement in an anti-government plot seven years ago.

Despite that, and over the objections of the government, the three were promoted during the annual Supreme Military Council in August.

By suspending them from duty, the government has demonstrated in a very public way its determination to place the armed forces under civilian control.

Military commanders have at times complained about the way their once untouchable institution is being treated, but they have also stated that the era of military coups is in the past.

The trial is the most ambitious attempt to prosecute armed forces personnel in civilian courts in Turkey, where the strongly secular military has brought down four governments since 1960.

Headscarf row
On Monday, Interior Minister Besir Atalay suspended Gendarmerie Maj Gen Halil Helvacıoglu, Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper reported.

This was followed on Wednesday by Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul's decision to suspend Maj Gen Gurbuz Kaya and Rear Adm Abdullah Gavremoglu.

Since coming to power, the AKP has been locked in a tug-of-war with Turkey's secular institutions over issues such as the Islamic headscarf for women and constitutional reform.

The BBC's Istanbul correspondent, Jonathan Head, says the military has been forced to accept a reduced role in political bodies such as the National Security Council and stronger parliamentary oversight of its spending.

On 29 October, military commanders and the main opposition leader failed to attend an official ceremony at the presidential palace on Republic Day, reportedly because they would have had to shake hands with President Abdullah Gul's headscarf-wearing wife, Hayrunnisa.

The move was criticised by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife Emine also wears a headscarf.