Balyoz appeal trial kicks off with minor tensions
Number of relatives and police officers present at the courthouse engaged in heated arguments. DHA photoAn appeal trial into the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot case began amid tension at the Supreme Court of Appeals on July 15, with lawyers presenting their arguments in the absence of the defendants.
“The so-called Balyoz Coup Plan is the greatest conspiracy in the history of the Republic of Turkey. We have seen the greatest digital forgery in Turkey, maybe in the world, in which no distinction was made among persons. While it is not possible to overpower these many officers in any way even during war, this has been [accomplished] by the judiciary,” Kazım Yiğit Akalın, former Air Force chief Halil İbrahim Fırtına’s lawyer, said in the first defense in the court.
Ekrem Ertuğrul, the president of the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, affirmed that they will not be limiting the right to defense. “We will not be limiting anybody’s right to defense here. Do believe this,” he said at the beginning of the hearing. He also noted that the hearings would continue non-stop every week day except for Fridays without taking judicial recess.
Some 250 of the defendants in the Balyoz coup plot case, which lasted for roughly three years, have been under arrest, including Fırtına, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Engin Alan, former Navy chief Özden Örnek, 1st Army chief Çetin Doğan and other high-ranking retired generals. The court took special precautions to examine the case after the appeal since it is being closely followed by the public.
During the hearings, where there was a high level of security, a skirmish between the lawyers and Ertuğrul occurred because the latter insisted that the cases be presented in alphabetical order, while the lawyers argued that they came prepared to proceed defendant by defendant in the necessary interest of coherence. The hearings subsequently began in alphabetical order.
Another disagreement emerged when some of the defendants’ lawyers were not permitted into the court because their names were not on a list prepared by the judges. After objections, the police let the lawyers in after checking their ID cards.
The court was packed with families of the defendants as the hearings are open to public, with the press and the families of defendants being given priority.
Before the hearing, a group supporting the defendants with Turkish flags and placards gathered near the court, but the police stopped them from approaching the building.
“Everybody is expecting justice to be fulfilled,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Bülent Tezcan, who was present to monitor the case, told reporters during a break at the hearing.
Yaşar Okuyan, a former minister, deemed the attitude toward the lawyers and family as “indelicate.”
“Lawyers and families are being blocked. People are facing life sentences. Families are rightfully getting worried. These images do not suit Turkey,” Okuyan said.
Meanwhile, the president of the court, Ali Alkan, and Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel met July 12, the court said in a statement released July 14 upon news reports about the meeting and its content.
The meeting had no connection to the ongoing hearings, the court said. “The president of the Supreme Court [of Appeals], Alkan, paid a courtesy visit to Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Chief of Staff Gen. Özel in order to give invitations for the opening of the judicial year. During the visit, there was no meeting over the ongoing cases while no help was demanded either.”