The Balyoz (Sledgehammer) rulings will constitute a lesson on understanding the change in the world, former Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök has said, expressing his sorrow over the harsh sentences issued for low ranking military personnel.
“The rulings will have a deterrent effect. Everyone will draw lessons from these rulings. [There are] lessons to be taken in the view of understanding the change in the world, also in the view of fair trial,” Özkök told daily Milliyet’s Fikret Bila. The court’s heavy sentences against dozens of military personnel, including high-ranking retired and active-duty soldiers, have been evaluated as “political” rather than judicial. Özkök, who commanded the army between 2002 and 2006, dismissed such claims saying “According to my life experience, there is no revenge in law. Law does not function in this way. “I wish no such thing had ever happened. But it happened. I feel great sorrow. All of them are my comrades with whom I served. But I am not a legal expert. I cannot comment on whether sentences are high or not.”
But he said all the accused were given sentences between 15 and 20 years without considering their ranks and military rules. “The military has unique conditions. It functions on the principle of chain of command,” Özkök said. “Therefore those who give the order and those who obey the order should not be assessed in the same way. That’s why I thought that sentences could be imposed on this basis,” he said. “There were some important complaints that the right to defense could not be fully used, that the indictment includes factual mistakes and some witnesses could not be heard. These complaints may be taken into consideration in the appeal process.” Yalman: I owe my life to them
Former Land Forces commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman was also the subject of criticism for not appearing in court as a witness.
“I faced many accusations and slanders during the case,” Yalman told Milliyet, adding he felt really sorry for his comrades in arms. “I have some comrades in arms that I owe my life. This is not an ordinary saying. I have friends that I owe my life to. I say it to express how sorry I am.” He said he faced cruel accusations and that he would go to court to defend his rights. “Balyoz” is the name of an alleged Turkish secularist military coup plan, about which a case was initiated on Dec. 16, 2010, with the first court hearing held in the courthouse at Silivri Prison.