ISTANBUL, April 6 (Reuters) - Turkey's armed forces issued a statement on Wednesday criticising, in unusually strong terms, the detention of 163 officers on trial for allegedly plotting a coup against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.
"The Turkish Armed Forces is having difficulty in understanding the continued detention of the 163 serving and retired personnel," the military said in a statement, adding it had refrained from actions interfering in the judicial process.
Turkey holds a national election on June 12, and opinion polls show Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AK Party, is set to score a third consecutive victory. The military's comments are likely to revive tensions ahead of it.
The "Sledgehammer" case, based on a coup plot allegedly hatched at an army seminar in 2003, is one of several setting the secularist establishment against a ruling party which critics suspect of having a secret Islamist agenda.
"The Turkish Armed Forces has repeatedly made statements... explaining in a way that can leave no doubt what the seminar was, how it was done, what it encompassed and who took part under what orders," it added.