TURKEY TRIES MILITARY OVER ALLEGED ANTI-GOVT PLOT
- Published:16 Aralık 2010, Perşembe
- Updated:16 Aralık 2010, Perşembe
Nearly 200 Turkish military officers, including three top retired commanders, went on trial Thursday charged with plotting against the government in a case likely to strain ties with the secularist armed forces. Skip related content
Amid tight security the officers filed into a courtroom near Istanbul to answer accusations over an alleged 2003 conspiracy to destabilise Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party government and pave the way for military intervention.
The "Operation Sledgehammer" case, which included plans to bomb historic mosques and provoke conflict with Greece, reflects a lingering mistrust between the military and a ruling party that critics say retains Islamist leanings.
The defendants, important figures in NATO's second biggest army, deny any conspiracy and say scenarios discussed at a military seminar seven years ago were a war game exercise.
"When the time comes in court for the defence I will say that this case does not have a legitimate basis," General Cetin Dogan, the former head of Turkey's prestigious First Army, told broadcaster CNN Turk outside the court in Silivri, west of Istanbul.
"I am very relaxed. I am on the right side and have never been on illegitimate ground. I am not a man of coups," he said before entering the court, which is located in a prison complex.
Retired commanders of the navy and air force, Admiral Ozden Ornek and General Halil Ibrahim Firtina, were also among the 196 defendants. All but nine defendants attended the first hearing, which was not expected to go beyond confirming identities.
The trial comes a little over six months before a parliamentary election. Erdogan, popular with conservative Muslims, is widely expected to win a third consecutive term but the case will add to a series of domestic and foreign policy challenges.
Since coming to power, the AK Party government has used reforms designed to boost Turkey's European Union membership bid as a means to reining in the authority of an army that has toppled four civilian governments since 1960.
Erdogan has also driven an economic transformation which has shifted power to a new emerging business class and away from old elites made up of generals, judges and educators devoted to the secular principles of the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Concerns about political tensions are for now unlikely to unsettle investors, well-used to Turkey's turbulent political scene, so financial markets are not expected to move for now.
The secularist establishment has felt increasingly embattled, although the AK Party denies impinging on lifestyles and casts itself as a Muslim version of Europe's Christian Democrat parties.
Three-quarters of the defendants in the mass trial are serving officers, and the case could drag on for years.
"For as long as the trial continues, there will be a high pressured environment for relations between the government and the Turkish armed forces," said Sedat Ergin, columnist with the Hurriyet daily.
Against this background, maintaining morale in the officer corps will be a major challenge for new armed forces chief General Isik Kosaner, a staunch secularist.
Hundreds of defendants, many perceived as hardline secularists, are already on trial at the same court in connection with a series of alleged coup plots allegedly orchestrated by the shadowy Ergenekon network.
The officers in the Sledgehammer case, who are not being held in custody, face jail sentences of 15-20 years if found guilty of plotting to destabilise the government.
Judicial authorities also reassigned two judges who were expected to hear the Sledgehammer case to other courts just two days ahead of the trial. The defence criticised the move as it gave the new judges little time become familiarised with the 1,000-page indictment.
REUTERS - By Daren Butler (Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Jon Boyle)
- There is no censorship in Turkeys democracy
While England is rattled by the censorship scandal in the national press, AK Party Spokesman and Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik has announced that there will be no censorship on social media or classic media as Turkey, which now has a mature democracy, has left such issues long in the past.
- Criminal complaint against Hüseyin Aygün
AK Party Istanbul Deputy Bülent Turan has filed a criminal complaint with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor against CHP Tunceli Deputy Hüseyin Aygün for insults in the virtual realm and for inspiring public hatred, enmity and degradation.
- Who is it that incites social crises in growing economic nations such as Mexico, Brazil and Turkey?
The innocent protest which began at the start of the month in Brazil, as it did as well in Turkey, has since transitioned into a point of interest for its dark demonstrations. Both nations, as they suffer from simultaneous protests, stand out for having bright and promising economies.
- We have learned lessons from these events and will prevent any disintegration
Prime Minister Erdoğan stated on Tuesday that the Gezi protests are part of a professionally organized operation and vowed to hold those behind the events accountable by law. The Prime Minister also said that the police in Turkey have passed the test of democracy.
- Our democracy was not harmed in these attacks
Responding to the European Parliament resolution condemning the police crackdown on protests sparked by redevelopment plans for Gezi Park, Prime Minister Erdoğan stated They are confused. They have no fidelity, and added that European politicians and institutions instantly laid down their masks in order to provoke events.
- Standing man!
One mans passive defiance by way of standing in place in Taksim Square and looking straight at the Atatürk Culture Center, quickly turned into a social media phenomenon last night.
- What is Claudia Roth doing in Taksim?
Infuriating Germans, Green Party Co-Chair Roth was subjected to pepper spray in Istanbul. Commenting on the incident, German nationals say, It turns out Erdoğan was right in saying that there are foreign forces triggering Taksim, and Roths presence is now proof. Other comments include, If Abdullah Gül showed up at Occupy Frankfurt of if Erdoğan was involved in the Stuttgart 21 demonstrations, the ground would shake!
- In just one day Taksim gets 20 trees and 152,000 flowers
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has been working continuously since last night on clearing and landscaping Taksim Square and Gezi Park.
- EU Minister Bağiş: Every crisis has made Erdoğan stronger
Explaining that the Gezi Park protests were planned six months ago, EU Minister Bağış states, These protests are an attempt to trigger a move which will end in regime change in Turkey. Bağış also discussed Prime Minister Erdoğans style with the Wall Street Journal.
- What do young supporters of Erdoğan think?
They came by land, they came by sea, and they came to hear their Prime Minister speak. Yesterdays Kazlıçeşme rally in support of Prime Minister Erdoğan saw over a million supporters come out to the square with AK Party and Turkish flags in hand, giving true sentiment to the figures of Erdoğans support rate.
- Protesters are using weapons
Istanbul Governor Mutlu is calling on protesters to refrain from responding to calls on social media to gather in Taksim because he says; peace has been established once again in Istanbul.
- Erdoğan receives unprecedented support from Istanbul residents
Nearly a million Istanbul residents flocked out to see Prime Minister Erdoğan speak at an AK Party rally in Kazlıçeşme on Sunday. Istanbul residents want the vandalism of protesters destroying and setting the city on fire to come to an end as soon as possible. Meanwhile, they also support Erdoğans referendum proposal.
- There is a functioning democracy in all of Turkeys institutions
On the first presidential visit to Ardahan in 18 years, President Gül had the chance to comment on the European Parliaments resolution vote on Thursday by stating, When reacting they need to have enough information to realize what is what.
- Reyhanli's number one suspect arrested
The number one suspect accused of planning and staging the twin bombings in the Hatay town of Reyhanlı, which killed 52 people, Nasır Eskiocak as well as three other perpetrators were arrested on Friday.