Government complains of slow progress in coup cases
AFP photoThe government is displeased about the slow progress of the trials into the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said, expressing the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) frustration that top suspects have denied their involvement and that the long imprisonment of journalists has provoked international anger.
“It is certain who dropped the bomb, who gave them permission them, who killed people, who drove the tanks and who flew the planes. What are we waiting for? It is a red-handed situation. A decision should be made. We are delivering our suggestions to the judiciary but we do not have the ability to give orders to the judiciary,” Yıldırım said June 3 in a meeting with media representatives.
His comments came after the senior military officers who are currently on trial for their alleged role in the July 2016 coup attempt denied their alleged involvement in FETÖ during court hearings initiated against 221 suspects in Ankara.
“The fact that they have denied their initial statements does not mean that they did not commit the crime. It has to be known,” he said. “Turkey is a state of law and they have been given an opportunity to give statements in court.”
He also said members of the ruling party had applied to become plaintiffs to the case and that he himself would be present at the following hearings.
‘Journalists not arrested for journalistic activities’
Answering a question concerning the long imprisonment of several journalists, including daily Cumhuriyet’s Kadri Gürsel, who were rounded up as part of a post-coup purge, Yıldırım said the government was not content with the slow progress but that “it has done everything it can.”
Gürsel, a member of the International Press Institution (IPI), was arrested along with 10 other Cumhuriyet journalists on Nov. 12, 2016, on terror charges. The prosecutor’s indictment was only prepared and conveyed to the court on April 2017, with prosecutors demanding prison for Gürsel on charges of “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member.”
Stating that the government had taken measures concerning the coup cases, Yıldırım said the trials were expected to be completed and that no one would be victimized.
The high workload stemming from the coup purge will also be eased by new courts of appeal, new appointments of judges and new courthouses, he claimed.
However, he added that the journalists who are in jail are “not inside because of journalism activities.”
“We know that the detention of foreign journalists or Turkish journalists is not about their journalistic activities. It is the information that we have received. It is somehow related to terror. It might be FETÖ [Fethullahist Terror Organization] or separatist terror,” Yıldırım said.
“There is a judicial process continuing on these activities, but when it is about a journalist, a certain sensitivity is raised. This is the case,” he added.
Yıldırım said there were 360 journalists of foreign nationality currently working in Turkey. “If there were any oppression, detention or intimidation, that many people could not work here. It is a great injustice to our country. It has been brought to our attention during our visits abroad. Being a journalist or a member of the press does not grant an exemption to commit a crime,” he added.
“If they did wrong, they will give an account for it even if they are a president, minister or an ordinary citizen,” he said.
Answering a question concerning an expected cabinet change in the near future, Yıldırım said: “it is not something to be curious about. Cabinet changes are not being talked about. One day you see that it has changed,” he said.
Yıldırım also waded into the debate about laws that could result in the destruction of olive groves in the country after a parliamentary commission accepted a contentious Production Reform Law in which an olive grove preservation board will be established to investigate the possibility of constructing industrial facilities on olive groves.
“Sometimes de facto situations arise. There are facilities which were constructed on former olive groves. The situation of those facilities has to be legalized. If that grove is on an industrial construction site, if there is no possibility to engage in olive agriculture, the regulation allows industry to use the fields it needs,” Yıldırım said, criticizing the objections, stating that the board would pave the way for the further industrialization of olive grove zones.
“It has been presented as if olive groves are being zoned for construction. That is wrong. Those who do not want Turkey to gain competitive power are engaging in this manipulation,” he said.
“They are presenting it in such a way that it is as if we destroyed olive groves. Compared to 2002, olive groves have grown, the olive production has been raised to make Turkey second in Europe [in terms of production],” he added.
Yıldırım also touched on a helicopter accident in which 13 soldiers were killed when a helicopter crashed in the Şenoba area of the southeastern province of Şırnak late on May 31.
“We have been all saddened by the incident. Of course, such types of accidents should not have happened. The obstacle designation systems were on the agenda of the defense industry for a long time. There were bids several times and they were canceled. The reason for this cancellation was disagreements between bureaucracy and the firms that did not consent to the results,” Yıldırım said amid suggestions that better technology could have prevented the crash.