The police officers who raided the houses of ranking military officers, journalists, academicians and activists five years ago as part of the so called “Ergenekon” and “Balyoz” investigations are now themselves on the receiving end.
There is more than what the German’s call “schadenfreude” – namely joy over the misfortune of others – among those who had to suffer incarceration under those investigations, which involved questionable legal and police practices.
All of those convicted in those cases are out of prison now after the Constitutional Court ruled recently that their rights had been violated. It is now the turn of the policemen who put them in prison to be incarcerated. These policemen are charged with being members of a secret organization that illegally wiretapped hundreds of people and engaged in spying activities.
Arrest warrants have been issued for 115 of them, including former heads of the anti-terrorism and intelligence departments in Istanbul. At least 67 have already been arrested with more arrests to come. There are also reports that the arrests could also spread to the judiciary.
The handcuffed images of these officers are also causing great satisfaction among supporters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
This may appear odd at first, since it was Erdoğan, the AKP, and the pro-government media that applauded and supported the prosecutors and policemen involved in the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations at the time.
People charged and convicted under those investigations were accused of setting up secret organizations to topple the democratically elected government by illegal means. They are now preparing for a retrial after the Constitutional Court ruled in their favor. But many spent five years in prison.
It just so happens that the policemen now being taken in include officers who were also involved in arresting those charged in the “Dec. 17 corruption scandal” that implicated the Erdoğan government.
Those arrested and sent to prison in this scandal, which involves billions of dollars in alleged bribes and graft, included the sons of two of Erdoğan’s ministers, as well as businessmen close to the government. All of them are out now due to government pressure on the judiciary.
The policemen being arrested today are also accused of having links to the Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is allegedly behind the Dec. 17 corruption scandal, which Erdoğan claims is a plot against his government.
This is where the crux of the matter lies. If the Dec. 17 corruption scandal had not broken out, the chances are that the government would not have acted against these policemen for the vindictive and illegal manner in which they behaved during the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations.
But that was before Erdogan and Gülen fell out. The present arrests, therefore, have little to do with justice and everything to do with retribution, which is now working in the opposite direction for the policemen who acted with impunity during the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations. They now face the same treatment they meted out at the time.
Whether this will advance a modern understanding of justice in Turkey - where the prevailing understanding continues to mainly be “an eye for an eye” – however, is highly questionable. Today the judiciary, with the exception of the Constitutional Court, is effectively under the control of the government.
Erdoğan has also made it clear in so many words that if he had his way he would put checks on the Constitutional Court too. He may still try to do so – even if it looks difficult at this stage - since this Court will most likely obstruct his plans to become an unencumbered executive president.
What is transpiring today nevertheless shows that the pendulum works in mysterious ways in Turkey. This means that no one can be certain how it will swing in the future.