Ergenekon trial grows bigger amid protests

Ergenekon trial grows bigger amid protests

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Ergenekon trial grows bigger amid protests

Thousands of people led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Workers’ Party (İP) and the Turkish Youth Union (TGB), hold a protest in Silivri. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Despite protests both inside and outside the courthouse, the court hearing the Ergenekon coup plot case agreed to merge another indictment with the ongoing case yesterday.

Contrary to earlier expectations, the prosecutor in the case did not make his final arguments.

Soldiers used pepper spray to disperse thousands of protestors, led by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Workers’ Party (İP) and the Turkish Youth Union (TGB), who protested the trial in front of the 13th High Criminal Court in Istanbul’s Silivri district. CHP deputy leader Gürsel Tekin climbed on a police tank to calm the crowds clashing with the soldiers.

The inside of the courthouse also saw its fair share of unrest, as the defendants’ lawyers objected to the newly merged indictment, which centers around a group of suspects accused of providing arms to Ergenekon.

Hearing interrupted

In place of his closing arguments, the prosecutor instead began reading the new indictment, but was cut off as the defendants’ lawyers objected to the indictment and demanded the floor. The court board dismissed the demand, causing uproar among the suspects, lawyers and CHP deputies. The court was adjourned several times due to the protests and the indictment could not be read.

Ahmet Çörtoğlu, a lawyer on the case, said that because the specially authorized courts were no longer in charge of this case it could not be merged with other existing cases.

“We were not even informed about this. As lawyers we learned of this new case this morning,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Nearly 50 CHP deputies attended the trial to observe what was thought would be a milestone day in the four-year-long case.

The court board violated the defendants’ fundamental rights by blocking their right to defense, said Muharrem İnce, the CHP deputy parliamentary group chair, while speaking on a bus after leaving the courtroom. “This court is not legitimate, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is [acting as] prosecutor and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is the witness,” İnce said, hinting to a secret witness in the case who was revealed as Şemdin Sakık, a prominent PKK figure.

Former Chief of Staff retired General İlker Başbuğ also protested at the court. He turned to the press and the deputies and said “look at the hearing,” before quickly leaving the courtroom.

CHP deputy, Süheyl Batum, stood up in the courtroom and yelled at the judges, saying the whole proceeding was scandalous. “We thought that this scandalous case [would] come to an end, but the prosecutor came up with two new indictments after four years. This is not law, this is not fair,” Batum later told the Daily News.

The CHP’s Emine Ülker Tarhan said Turkey had recently turned into “one giant jail” and that Turkish people “are in need of making a move to break their chains.”