Welcoming 2012 in prison pending trial
AFP photoThe judicial system’s slow process and long arrest periods will be among the top items on Turkey’s agenda in 2012 as hundreds of journalists, lawmakers, politicians, intellectuals, students, football personalities and retired and active-duty Army officers will welcome the new year in prisons pending trial.
Journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener spent their 300th day in prison on allegations based on their notes and a draft book by Şık, which was later published, on the alleged influence of Fethullah Gülen movement members on the police force. The chief judge of the court overseeing the case promised a “swift trial,” but the men will be in prison for the first days of the new year along with 11 other arrested suspects.
Those who spent the longest time in prison without a conviction are the suspects in alleged coup plot cases, namely Sledgehammer (Balyoz) and Ergenekon. Journalist Mustafa Balbay, who was elected as a deputy in the ranks of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the June 12 general elections, and journalist Tuncay Özkan marked their 1,000th day of arrest on alleged links to the alleged Ergenekon crime gang at the end of November. A number of suspects in the same trial will have completed their fourth year in jail without a conviction by the end of January.
Retired commander of the First Army Çetin Doğan, the No. 1 suspect in the alleged Sledgehammer coup plot case, and retired colonel Engin Alan, who was elected as a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy in June, have been in prison for over 600 days. More than 170 active duty soldiers, including four-star Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, are under arrest pending trial.
Another investigation to watch in 2012 will be that of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The KCK suspects include five Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies, more than 20 journalists arrested in December and hundreds of local politicians in the ranks of the BDP.
According to unofficial data, more than 500 high school and university students are also in prison pending trial on accusations of being members of outlawed leftist organizations.
Most local and international eyes will be on the Turkish courts in 2012 just as they were last year.