Re-trying ‘Ergenekon’

Re-trying ‘Ergenekon’

The current political tension in Turkey, which has pitted the government against not just the Gülen Movement but also a part of the judiciary, is a destructive one in many aspects. Yet still, there might be a few positive outcomes as well, as indicated by the recent discussion on the “re-trial” of some of the convicts of the controversial cases of the past seven years.

Popularly known as “Ergenekon” or “Sledgehammer,” these trials were allegedly aimed at exposing and punishing the would-be military juntas in the Turkish military and their civilian allies. As I have argued repeatedly, they were not totally imaginary, for there really were criminal elements of the “deep state” that were motivated against the elected government. But the trials have devolved into McCarthyistic campaigns, due to the revanchist and conspiratorial mindset of their prosecutors. As I put it in this column some two years ago:

“All these cases have been carried out by ‘courts with special powers,’ which proved willing to accuse huge numbers of people with weak and even sometimes suspicious evidence and detain most of them. That’s why all of these cases, which I see as rightful at their core, began to turn into witch hunts.”

(“The end of conservative McCarthyism?,” Hürriyet Daily News, March/14/2012)

In the same article, I added, “In all these political cases – Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and KCK – there are hundreds of detainees who should be free by European legal standards.” Then I added a somewhat wishful thinking: “I am just feeling that we might be at the beginning of a new and better era, in which we will see less paranoia and more freedom.”

Well, since then, Turkey has unfortunately not moved towards “less paranoia and more freedom.” Quite the contrary, we now have more paranoia and less freedom. Yet still, the particular excesses of the “coup cases” can perhaps be overturned and repaired in the year ahead.

The reason is that the AKP government, which was once the passionate defender of the “coup cases,” has now begun to see the judicial elements that led these cases as a threat to itself. When Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly condemns the “parallel state,” he implies a cadre of prosecutors and police that allegedly “conspired” against the military (as one of Erdoğan’s advisors wrote) and now “conspires” against the AKP

Of course, this new conspiracy theory is prone to create a new wave of McCarthyism — this time against the “parallel state,” and even the larger Gülen Movement. (We Turks seem not able to just calm down and chill.) But if it rather helps correcting the misdeeds of older McCarthyisms, it will be good.

How would this be possible? Legal experts are noting that a retrial of older cases is possible when justice minister calls on the Board of Penal Cases within the Court of Appeals. Reporter for daily Radikal, Ömer Şahin, reported yesterday that the government is even trying to gather a new team of experienced prosecutors, including hard-core secular ones, for this special task. One of them is, alas, Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, the very prosecutor who opened the notorious “closure case” against the AKP in 2008!

All this shows how tables have been completely overturned in Turkish politics. We probably will see a very interesting year full of new alignments and confrontations. I just hope that the repairing of old injustices, which is a must, will not be the only good outcome.