188 active officers affected by Balyoz coup plot case change Turkish General Staff’s administrative level
Gökçe Aytulu ISTANBULThe Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case, which started in 2010 when a journalist submitted a suitcase full of alleged evidence that the Turkish General Staff was planning a coup to topple the government, ended with the acquittal of all of the 236 suspects last week, though the case has changed the army’s administrative staff for good.
The Balyoz case not only affected the former suspects, their families and their careers, but has also made unchangeable differences at the army’s administrative level. A total of 188 generals or admirals and staff officers from all forces of the Turkish General Staff were affected from the Balyoz case, which lasted for five years.
The force commanders and the command element of the General Staff for the coming 15 to 20 years would have been selected from these 188 staff officers on active duty, of which 59 were generals or admirals, but most of their careers were ended by the Balyoz case.
The Balyoz coup plot case saw 45 state officers on active duty from the Land Forces, 27 from the Air Forces, 98 from the Naval Forces and 18 from the Gendarmerie become suspects, and most of them were either forced to retire or discharged from the General Staff as a result.
The Naval Forces was the most affected by the case, with 98 active duty state officers and admirals becoming suspects. The Naval Forces also saw the highest number of suspects from one force at the rank of general or admiral with 24, followed by the Land Forces and Air Forces with 16 each and the Gendarmerie with three.
Balyoz was an alleged military coup plot targeting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) drafted in 2003. The military was alleged to have planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power. The measures included bombing two major mosques in Istanbul, an assault on a military museum by people disguised as religious extremists and the raising of tension with Greece through an attack on a Turkish plane that was to be blamed on the Aegean neighbor.
An Istanbul court sentenced 331 of the 365 suspects to prison terms on Sept. 21, 2012, while 34 suspects were acquitted. The Court of Appeals approved the judgments of 237 suspects, while it ruled that 88 suspects should not be punished. The 237 (one suspect died in jail while serving his term) suspects had received jail terms varying between 13 and 20 years.
The retrial of the Balyoz case began on Nov. 3, 2014, after the Constitutional Court ruled in June 2014 unanimously that the convicted suspects’ rights were violated concerning “digital data and the defendants’ testimonies.” All Balyoz suspects and convicts, including high-ranking generals, were released in June 2014 after the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
All 236 suspects in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot case were acquitted March 31 after the case’s prosecutor argued that digital data in the files submitted as evidence in the case was “fake” and did not constitute evidence.
Former generals Çetin Doğan, Özden Örnek, Halil İbrahim Fırtına, Dursun Çiçek, Bilgin Balanlı, Ergin Saygun, Nejat Bek and Süha Tanyeri, along with Engin Alan, who is now a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy, were among the 236 suspects.