Court hits ex-top soldiers hard
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
ÇETİN DOĞAN (L), ÖZDEN ÖRNEK (M), İBRAHİM FIRTINA
A court in Istanbul has sentenced three retired generals were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) case on Sept 21, before the sentences were reduced to 20 years.
Air Force Cmdr. retired Gen. İbrahim Fırtına, retired 1st Army Cmdr. Gen. Çetin Doğan and retired Navy Cmdr. Adm. Özden Örnek were convicted to life on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force,” but the terms were later reduced to 20 years because of the “incomplete attempt at staging a coup,” the court said.
A total of 331 of the 365 suspects were sentenced to prison terms, while 34 suspects were acquitted.
Engin Alan, a retired general and a deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), was sentenced to 18 years in prison, as was retired Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, the former commander of the War Academies. Retired Col. Dursun Çiçek was sentenced to 16 years in prison while a total of 175 suspects were each sentenced to 13 years in prison.
The court decide not to release any of the 250 suspects under arrest, while also issuing arrest warrants to 69 suspects who were on trial without arrest.
‘Turkey is proud of you’
The 108th hearing in the trial, which has been underway for about 18 months, was held at Istanbul’s Silivri Prison beginning Sept. 20. During the hearing, those suspects who are currently under arrest were applauded by those in attendance in the courtroom. The attendees chanted slogans such as “Turkey is proud of you” and “We are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal.” Those suspects who are not currently held under arrest and who had not previously made their defenses also did so, pleading innocence.
Meanwhile, arrested suspect Navy Col. Hakan Mehmet Köktürk suffered a heart attack and was transferred to GATA Haydarpaşa Hospital for treatment. Most of suspects’ lawyers did not attend the hearing, in protest of the prosecutor’s decision to present his considerations before listening to some witnesses and evaluating the evidence on file. Only nine lawyers attended the trial.
“Balyoz” is the name of an alleged Turkish secularist military coup plan, against which a case was initiated on Dec. 16, 2010, with the first court hearing held in the courthouse at Silivri Prison. According to allegations, the military planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from power. These measures included bombing two major mosques in Istanbul, attacking a military museum disguised as religious extremists and raising tensions with Greece by attacking a Turkish plane and blaming the incident on the country’s Aegean neighbor.
Background of first coup-plot Balyoz case
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
The Balyoz coup plot case went on for two years and eight months and involved 365 suspects, 250 of whom were under arrest, including the former Air Force Commander retired Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına, former Naval Force Commander retired Admiral Özden Örnek, and former 1st Army Commander retired generals Çetin Doğan and Ergin Saygun.
The case was brought to the agenda after documents titled “Balyoz Operation Plan,” dating back to 2003, were revealed by a daily newspaper two years ago. According to the claims, the coup plot was planned by the junta leaded by 1st Army Commander of that period, Çetin Doğan. The plot was alleged to consist of action plans under the code names of Çarşaf (Sheet), Sakal (Beard), Suga and Oraj. 5000-page documents were claimed to include plans such as forcing the government to proclaim martial law by bombing the Fatih and Beyazıt mosques in Istanbul and provoking the people by downing a Turkish jet over Greece’s airspace and arresting journalists after the planned coup.
The Balyoz coup plot was represented as part of a Plan Seminar which was held between March 5 and 7, 2003. General Çetin Doğan, who organized and lead the Plan Seminar, was accused of organizing the coup plan and rehearsing it with this seminar.
On July 19, 2010; the Istanbul 10th Court for Serious Crimes accepted the indictment and filed a lawsuit against 196 soldiers. The 968-page indictment charged the defendants with “attempting to hinder the operations of executive body of the Republic of Turkey by force.” However, they demanded reducing the charges due to the “incomplete attempt” according to Article no. 61/1 of the former Turkish Penal Code, and demanded a 15 to 20 years prison sentence for each defendant.
However, the case included a number of apparent inconsistencies. For instance, it is claimed that SAT commander Capt. Ali Türkşen saved a certain document in his computer on a certain date, but it was revealed that the captain attended a T.V. program about diving at the same time. In addition, some videos that were detected were recorded at the same time he is know to have been diving. “How can I save a document while I am under the sea?” Türkşen asked. He has been under arrest for 1.5 years. It is also alleged that an appointment was made on the TCG Alanya ship in 2003. However, the ship in question was not constructed until 2005.In addition, a number of street names that are stated in the gendarmerie plans were different in 2003 and only had their names changed after that date.
Top suspect Doğan sentenced to 20 years
Çetin Doğan was the former 1st Army Commander who became general in 1999. He was appointed as the Commander of Aegean Army Command and was retired in 2004. Within the Balyoz coup plot he was mentioned as martial law commander. During his defense, Doğan said the plans regarding war colleges were possible, but he rejected the scenarios of bombing mosques and downing a Turkish jet in Greek airspace. He was alleged to have organized a plan seminary which was claimed to be a rehearsal of the planned coup.
Admiral Özden Örnek sentenced to 20 years
On March 29, 2007, the magazine Nokta published the alleged diaries of retired Admiral Özden Örnek. The diaries admitted that some generals had prepared a coup plan in 2004 but were impeded by the chief of general staff of the time, General Hilmi Özkök.
The diaries were considered among the most solid evidence related to the Ergenekon case, an investigation into a suspected gang that allegedly sought to topple the government. Örnek was was arrested in 2011 as part of the Balyoz case.
Air Force Gen. Fırtına sentenced to 20 years
Halil İbrahim Fırtına was a retired Turkish Air Force General and Commander of the Turkish Air Force. He was arrested in May 2011 along with General Çetin Doğan, the former commander of the 1st Army, and Özden Örnek, the former top commanders of the Navy. Fırtına compared himself to Italian scientist Galileo during his defense at the 102nd hearing in the case. Galileo was imprisoned in the 17th century for insisting that the earth was round, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest at his farm.