When will the judgment be made in the most important Turkey coup attempt case?
The same thing happens at every hearing in the ongoing trials on Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt: While the hearing is continuing, someone in the audience in the section reserved for the families of those killed or injured stands up and starts shouting.
“You could not defeat us with your cannons and tanks. This nation cannot be defeated,” they say, for example. The head of the court board, Selfet Giray, then calls for order. After his warning, a police officer approaches the shouter and escorts them out of the courtroom.
The same process gets repeated every half-hour or hour. The families of those killed or injured watch the hearing and the lawyers of plaintiffs representing institutions such as the presidency and the Grand National Assembly are all in attendance. As a result, the psychology and tension of the coup attempt is effectively carried into the courtroom in Sincan, Ankara.
Because of this atmosphere, family members of the defendants tend not to attend the hearings in the Akıncı Air Base case. Family members of those killed or injured by coup plotters have directed curses and insults at the families of defendants ever since the lawsuit began on Aug. 1.
Another empty space in the courtroom is the area reserved for journalists. In this courtroom, where the most important case about the coup attempt is progressing, there are very few journalists in attendance - rarely more than four or five. While state-run Anadolu Agency and private Doğan News Agency always keep a reporter present in the room, it is evident that most newspapers and TV stations are not very interested in the case.
The Akıncı Air Base lawsuit is progressing slowly under these conditions. Only 28 of the defendants had been heard by the end of the 24th hearing on Sept. 13. In the lawsuit, which began on Aug. 1, an average of two defendants per day have been heard. So there is still a long way to go, considering that 481 defendants are on trial in the case. What’s more, it seems likely that the cases on the military transport aircraft personnel who took off from Kayseri and landed in Hatay and the F-16 fighting falcons who took off from Diyarbakır will be merged. If so, we can assume that the number of defendants will further increase.
There are a number of things to consider regarding how long the lawsuit will last. First of all, due to the most recent judge appointments to the Ankara 4th Criminal Court, the cases into the 2015 Ankara train station bombings and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) could be sent to another court. If that happens, Judge Giray’s court board will be able to directly focus on the Akıncı Air Base lawsuit.
But even in such a case, after the hearings of critical actors, such as the civilian and military leaders of the coup attempt and the F-16 pilots, at least seven-and-a-half months will be necessary for the hearings to be completed, if three defendants are heard every day and the judges work every weekday.
This would take us to early May 2018.
The case will not end there either. After the hearings are completed, the court will evaluate the evidence, during which items such as the pilots’ voice recordings will be very important. When that is completed, the attorney and intervening parties must present their opinions regarding the basis of the lawsuit. Following that, the defendants will make their plea in light of those opinions. The court board will then announce its judgment.
So we are talking about a process that could continue until the end of 2018.
It can already be understood that FETÖ members will mostly follow the strategy of denying the accusations. It will therefore be very important whether the confessors – especially Müslim Macit and Adem Kırcı, the F-16 pilots who have confessed to being FETÖ members and taking part in the coup attempt – among the defendants will withdraw their statements. If the confessors stand by their statements, they will invalidate the tactics of other F-16 pilots who have denied dropping bombs from planes and even taking off from the Akıncı Air Base in the first place.
But if they change their statements and join those denying any role in the coup attempt, it means they will be expecting us to believe that nothing happened in Akıncı Air Base on the night of July 15, 2016, and the bombs that killed 68 of our citizens were dropped by UFOs.