This trial, for a plan to bring down the government in 2003, through a series of extreme chaos-instigating events, marks a first in the history of the public. Not only for its scope, number of military member defendants and the caliber of those suspects, but the reading of the verdict yesterday marked the first time Turkey has been able to hold perpetrators of an attempted coup accountable in a court of law.
All of the 365 defendants in the sledgehammer case, 250 of which were arrested pending trial, were military members. The judge heard the testimonies of 96 suspects, who were either active or retired generals or admirals. On the day the verdict was read, over 200 of the defendants were still on active duty.
Other trials, such as the Ergenekon, September 12th and February 28th trials, where illegal attempts to overthrow the government are being tried by civil courts, are currently ongoing.
SEPTEMBER 12, 1980 COUP: With the referendum passed on September 12th, 2010 the temporary 15th article of the constitution was lifted, thereby allowing for the former members of the National Security Council to be tried in civil court.
The referendum was followed by a significant number of criminal complaints filed against Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya the ringleaders of the 1980 coup. After an extensive investigation, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor filed a case against Evren and Şahinkaya. Six hearings have been held thus far and in the next few days, Evren and Şahinkaya will be testifying in a video conference format due to their current medical conditions.
FEBRUARY 28, 1997 MILITARY MEMORANDUM: The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutors Office also initiated an investigation into the February 28th, 1997military memorandum which refers to the decisions issued by the Turkish military on a National Security Council meeting which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and the end of his coalition government. The investigation into what is also referred to as the 'post-modern coup' is still ongoing and a number of military members, including retired Generals Çevik Bir and Erol Özkasnak have been detained.
In addition, the assembly has formed a research committee for coups and military interventions which have already begun to hear witnesses from the 1960-71, 1971, 1980 and February 28th coups.
ERGENEKON TRIAL: The Ergenekon operation began in 2007 when a number of hand grenades were confiscated by security forces in a raid of a squatter house in Ümraniye. Retired General Şener Uygur, retired General Hurşit Tolon, retired Brigadier General Veli Küçük, Labor Party Chairman Doğu Perinçek are just a few in a long list of defendants in the case. The suspects are being tried with planning to overthrow the government by force and anti-democratic means. The trial is currently ongoing in a courthouse built inside the Silivri Penitentiary in 2008.
GENERALS SERVING TIME TO HAVE RANKS DROPPED
The heavy prison terms issued in yesterday's verdict in the Sledgehammer trial has now brought along the question of the Supreme Court of Appeals process. If the Supreme Court of Appeals approves the ruling made by Istanbul's Tenth High Criminal Court then the status of all of the military personnel charged, whether retired or currently active will be dropped down to that of a private. Generals will be stripped of their ranks and all medals and decorations as well as weapons will be reclaimed by the army.
The Supreme Court of Appeals' Ninth Criminal Decision will now be taking on the process off inspecting the appeal of the ruling issued by Istanbul's Tenth High Criminal Court. If the division approves of the verdict, then the sentences will be executed. If the ruling is not approved either in method and or in principle, then the file will be resent to Istanbul's Tenth High Criminal Court.
WHO IS BEING CHARGED AND FOR WHAT?
Çetin Doğan: The number one suspect in the case retired General and former Land Forces Commander Doğan is perceived to have personally devised the overall plan, including the Çarşaf, Sakal, Oraj and Suga plans. However, Doğan claims that the action plan was prepared as part of his duty to protect the Turkish Republic as dictated by the Internal Service Act. Voice records from the March 5th-7th seminar held at the Selimiye Barracks in 2003 show that Doğan stated, "I will tell the Chief of General Staff and the Land Forces Commander to give the parliament and the government a warning-like ultimatum telling them to stop pursuing this route." He was hoping to become the Chief of General Staff, however when other leading members of the military heard of his plan, he was made retired in the 2003 Supreme Military Council. Doğan was also the founding general of the West Study Group (BÇG), which infamously tagged people during the February 28th process.
Özden Örnek: Retired General Örnek served as the Naval Forces Commander when the Sledgehammer Plan was in the works. Örnek signed off on the 'Suga Plan' and was also involved in drafting the coup journals. The Suga Plan involved a violation of Greek territorial waters in an attempt to instigate tension with Greece, thereby putting pressure on the government.
İbrahim Fırtına: Retired General and former Air Forces Commander Fırtına was serving as the Military Academy Commander during the time the Balyoz Plan was devised. He signed off on one of the most important stages of the Sledgehammer Plan, which was referred to as the 'Oraj Plan,' which involved the downing of a Turkish warplane in the Aegean.
Bilgin Balanlı: Balanlı was arrested in May of last year while actively serving as Military Academy Commander. He was expecting to be appointed as Air Force Commander, however once arrested he was appointed to the more passive position of member of the Supreme Military Council. Documents recovered in former colonel Hakan Büyük's home in Eskişehir point to Balanlı having prepared a B plan in case the 'Oraj Plan' did not succeed.
Engin Alan: At the time the Sledgehammer Plan was devised, retired Lieutenant General Engin Alan was serving as the Commander of the Second Army Corps. Alan attended the First Army Plan Seminar, which is stated to be the seminar from which the coup plan surfaced. The commander was supposedly intending to serve in the coup with his army corps. While under arrest, Alan was elected as a deputy for the Nationalist Movement Party.