Turkey’s coup trials: Shadows and doubts

Turkey’s coup trials: Shadows and doubts

Ten months have passed since the bloody coup attempt of July 15, 2016 and we are finally talking about a judicial process. The trial that has been taking place in Ankara for a week is limited to the military officers who allegedly took part in the coup activities on that night. There are also several other small trials in provinces like Malatya, Adıyaman and Muğla. There is one thing in common in all of them: Only the soldiers are the ones who are forced to do the embarrassing walk in front of crowds chanting for the death penalty.

Let’s be clear. The attempt would not be called a coup if it had not been for the military involvement. But the failure of due process in the aftermath has created so many question marks that even the most faithful supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are having a hard time explaining the purges.

Prof. Tayyar Arı, the dean of Uludağ University’s Administrative Sciences School, said on private broadcaster CNN Türk last week that academia is having a harder time recruiting talent. “The president wants people to be employed, but nobody wants to take the risk of hiring a Gülenist if they had managed to hide themselves,” Arı said. 

Let’s go back to the courtroom where high-ranking generals of the coup attempt are being tried. Former Air Force Commander Akın Oztürk claimed that he was called in by his predecessor to go and stop the activity. Former General Hakan Evrim of the Akıncı Air Base, the center of the coup attempt, has denied all claims that he is linked to the Fethullah Terror Organization (FETÖ). So it has all become very murky. While the generals are in court dodging questions, young military students who did not even have a gun in their hands that night have been locked up for months.

Meanwhile, the report of the parliamentary commission investigating the coup attempt has outlined the FETÖ organization, its links, and how it infiltrated into the government. Sadly, the commission has failed to illuminate events of that night, who planned the coup and who executed it. 

Under this thick fog of war, two reporters from daily Sözcü have been jailed just for reporting where President Erdoğan was vacationing on the weekend of the coup attempt. Locals in Marmaris could have told everyone that Erdoğan and his family were staying at the private villa of businessman Serkan Yazıcı.

After the arrests, Sözcü’s attorney Celal Ülgen said FETÖ is “alive and well” and has “transformed itself into something new.” Indeed, the latest methods certainly bring to mind the OdaTV and Ergenekon trials. With a few exceptions like Salih Tuna and Nihal Bengisu Karaca, pro-Justice and Development Party (AK Party) columnists are once again silent about the injustices.

We are sure that press freedom trials will eventually give way to freedom. But a bigger challenge facing honest and fair judges and prosecutors is to cut through the current atmosphere of bias and fear. Everyone in a courthouse should be strong enough to stand up and defend “free and fair” trials for everyone. Coup trials should not be trash cans where you can dump whoever raises a voice, or “Nuremberg trials” where one can hang or lynch anyone in uniform. These trials should be democracy’s badge of honor.

The planners of this bloody and dark attempt are still living comfortably in Western capitals, rubbing their hands and smiling devilishly. We should not fail and give them the joy of winning.