Controversial coup ruling sees no end
Demonstrations follow the harsh court rulings in an alleged coup plot case. DHA photoThe Turkish government preferred to use cautious language regarding the court verdict in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case, in which 330 retired and serving soldiers were sentenced to 13 to 20 years in prison each, while opposition parties slammed the ruling, linking it to the government’s alleged influence on the judiciary.
Commenting on the issue minutes after the sentences were announced, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan avoided elaborating on the ruling, pointing to the appeals process.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment without seeing the reasons for the verdict. There is another process in the Supreme Court of Appeals following the verdict of the court of first instance. What is important for us is that the right decision emerges,” Erdoğan told reporters in Ankara late Sept. 21.
Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu harshly criticized the court saying that it would be useless to anticipate a fair decision from “a court which is under the command of the government.”
“It would be useless to anticipate justice in the trials in Silivri [where the Balyoz hearings were held]. These courts are under the command of political authority. There is no justice in these courts. These are political courts; their rulings are taken under political influence,” Republican People’s Party leader Kılıçdaroğlu said on Sept. 22 in Gaziantep.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli joined Kılıçdaroğlu criticizing the ruling, claiming it was revenge for the Feb. 28, 1997 process, in which Turkey’s first Islamist government was forced to step aside by the military.
An Istanbul court sentenced 331 suspects including retired Air Force commander Gen. İbrahim Fırtına, retired First Army commander Gen. Çetin Doğan and retired Navy commander Adm. Özden Örnek to 13 to 20 years in prison on Sept. 21 for drawing up coup plans after taking part in an army seminar in 2003.
Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek echoed Erdoğan, indicating the final verdict would be announced by the Supreme Court of Appeals. “The reason for the ruling should be disclosed in order for us to make a judicial evaluation,” Çiçek said, emphasizing that he doesn’t comment on ongoing trials.
Without specifically referring to the Balyoz trial, Çiçek said everybody should respect the national will. “After all the painful incidents in the recent history of Turkey, everybody should agree on this. Everybody should respect the national will. [Politicians] elected by the people’s will should step aside according to elections. Other ways and methods expose us to trouble,” Çiçek said in a televised interview on Sept. 23 on private Kanaltürk television channel.
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay also elaborated on the court ruling discreetly, saying that all these recent events are milestones in Turkey’s normalization process.
“What we desire is that Turkey doesn’t witness such scenes. We hope everything will go on normally. We hope our army will not deal with designing politics. We hope there will be no such attempts, allegations, trials and sentences. We hope Turkey will be a normal country. All these events are important milestones in our democratic history. I hope there is no injustice or unfairness,” Atalay said on a live TV show on private Kanal 7 yesterday.
Minister of Culture Ertuğrul Günay, meanwhile, said that courts of first instance may give controversial rulings, while refraining from making further comments.
“Courts of first instance may give controversial rulings. Fortunately, this is not final verdict. The Supreme Court of Appeals will announce the final verdict. I will tell my further opinions to the Cabinet,” Günay said in Antalya yesterday.
Numan Kurtulmuş, a conservative politician who just joined ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after dissolving his People’s Voice Party (HSP), said he appreciated the ruling. “This nation is very pleased to see how the sledgehammer, with which it was attempted to strike people, was broken,” Kurtulmuş said in Istanbul at an AKP meeting.