The trial has opened in Turkey of alleged "post-modern coup" plotters accused of toppling the government 16 years ago.

Ismail Hakki Karadayi, former chief of general staff, is among the 103 suspects, 37 of them in jail, who will be asked to defend themselves at an Ankara court against accusations of “overthrowing the Turkish government by force”.

Prosecutors have called for a life sentence for Karadayi who did not attend the first hearing due to ill health.

He was detained early this year but has been released on conditions of trial without arrest later.

The suspects in the case include several former generals: Cevik Bir, Cetin Dogan, Erdal Ceylanoglu, Engin Alan and Kemal Guruz, former head of the Higher Education Board.

Necmettin Erbakan was forced to resign as prime minister almost four months after a meeting of the National Security Council (MGK) on February 28, 1997.

Throughout "The February 28 process", the army imposed a series of tough rulings on Erbakan aimed primarily at curbing religious schools and Islamic education in the face of what was perceived at the time as a mounting threat to Turkey’s secular system.

Erbakan’s Welfare Party (RP) was banned for alleged anti-secular activities after a ruling by the Constitutional Court in 1998.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current Turkish prime minister, was a member of the party and elected as the mayor of Istanbul in 1994 on the ticket of the RP.

Abdullah Gul, Turkey's president, was also a RP member and acted as a minister under Erbakan's leadership.

Both leaders were among the co-founders of the Justice and Development Party (AK), which won three general elections and has been in power in Turkey since 2002.   

Ilker Basbug, another former chief of general staff, was one of the dozens of people convicted of involvement in a plot against the Erdogan’s government 10 years ago and jailed for life last month.

The Turkish army previously staged three coups and removed elected governments from power in 1960, 1971 and 1980.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies