Suspect Turkish Court Rulings
Suspect Turkish Court Rulings
by Stephen Lendman
On Monday, a landmark case ended. It was politically charged. It was suspect from inception. Everyone tried claimed innocence. Of the 275 alleged coup plotters, most were convicted.
In 2007, proceedings began. Only 21 defendants were acquitted. Another 16 were freed. Consideration for time served brought release.
Three opposition MPs got 12 - 35 years in prison. Attorney Kemal Kerincsiz heads Turkey's Great Union of Jurists. He got life imprisonment for doing his job.
So did former First Army commander Gen. Hursit Tolon, former Second Chief of General Staff Gen. Hasan Igsiz, retired Gen Nusret Tasdeler, and retired Col. Fuat Selvi.
Former Gendarmerie Forces commander Sener Eruygur got an aggravated life sentence. Retired Gen. Veli Kucuk received a double one plus 99 years and one month.
Turkey's former military chief of staff, General Ilker Basbug, got life. He and 16 others were charged with violations of Turkish Penal Code Articles 309, 310, and 311.
Ahead of the verdict, Basgug said:
"The 'court' will announce its verdict in an atmosphere that was not even seen in times of martial law, with even families being banned from coming."
"They know they will smear a black stain on the glorious history of the Turkish state and army like never before."
After the verdict, he added:
"My conscience is clear. For those who have been tried under these circumstances, the final say is the people's say. And the people are never wrong and are never deceived."
"Those who have always stood beside the righteous people, beside justice, have a clear conscience. I am one of those people."
Former Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Mustafa Balbay got 34 years, eight months. He's an opposition CHP party member.
He claimed prosecutors fabricated charges. They "conceal(ed) the case from the public," he said. It's "political." It lacks credibility.
Prosecutors claimed defendants were part of a shadowy secularist/neo-nationalist/high-ranking military network. Charges included plotting to oust Prime Minister Erdogan's government. More on that below.
In September 2006, Amnesty International said:
"Unfair trials continue to blight Turkey's human rights record." Its judicial system is tainted. It lacks credibility. Show trials substitute for fair ones.
"One area of concern is criminal proceedings against people charged under anti-terrorism legislation."
They're tried in special Heavy Penal Courts. Unfairness characterizes them. Turkey's judicial process is tainted.
Last September, Turkish courts jailed hundreds of military officers. Alleged coup plotting was charged. The so-called Sledgehammer (Balyoz) case highlighted authoritarian rule.
Cetin Dogan was chief suspect. He's a retired Turkish general. He and two other retired generals got life in prison.
It was later reduced to 20 years. So-called leniency was because "attempting to overthrown the government by force" failed.
Professor Dani Rodrik, Dogan's son-in-law, called evidence against him fabricated.
He and his daughter, Pinar, said "what lies behind the trials is an apparent effort to discredit the government's opponents on the basis of the flimsiest evidence and often, far worse, by framing them with planted evidence and forged documents."
Secret evidence was used. Anonymous sources provided it. Uncorroborated claims lack credibility.
Turkey's more police state than democracy. Sledgehammer justice was scandalously unfair. It reflected Cold War era show trials. It denied justice.
It lacked legitimacy. It reeked of political interference. It showed Turkey's dark side. Its longstanding history reflects unfairness.
Free expression isn't tolerated. Nor is dissent. No country imprisons more journalists than Turkey. Ragip Zarakolu was ruthlessly harassed for years. He's a human rights activist/publisher/Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
He was convicted of various previous charges. They lacked credibility. They included translating Professor Dora Sakayan's book titled "An Armenian Doctor in Turkey. G. Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922."
In October 2011, he was imprisoned. In April 2012, he was released. He remains vulnerable. So do others like him. Controlling the message is prioritized. Turkey tolerates no dissent.
Authoritarian rule challenges it. State terror is official policy. Judicial fairness is a figure of speech.
On August 5, The New York Times headlined "Turkish Court Hands Down Prison Sentences in Coup Plot," saying:
"(D)ozens of high-ranking military officers, politicians, journalists and others (got) long prisons terms from "a long-running case that captivated the nation for its audacity, laid bare the deep divisions within Turkish society between Islamists and secularists and earned sharp criticism from the international community over issues of judicial fairness."
Besides Basbug and other high-level defendants, 20 journalists were sentenced. Turkey criminalizes truth-telling. Victims are guilty by accusation.
Turkish justice resembles America's. It's like Israel's. Anyone seen potentially challenging state authority is vulnerable.
Police states operate that way. According to The Times:
"The case was initially seen by many as an important move by Mr. Erdogan's government to engineer democratic reforms by taming the military, which has carried out three coups in modern Turkey’s history."
"Many democracy advocates in the country have grown weary of military interventions in politics, and hailed the trialâ€¦as a major step toward civilian rule."
"But as the case grew and ensnared journalists, academics and prominent government critics, it came to be seen as a politically motivated attempt at silencing dissent."
Celal Ulgen represented 16 defendants. They included journalist Runcay Ozkan.
"In these cases," he said, "they tried to create a thornless rose garden by silencing opposition and intimidating patriotic people with secular principles."
"(I)t's impossible to talk about a justice system free of politics, or public trust in justice."
Families couldn't access the final hearing. Police blocked them. They surrounded the Silivri courthouse.
Roads to the town were closed. Buses carrying protestors were stopped. They were prevented from reaching the area.
Barricades were erected. Ahead of the verdict, Istanbul police raided suspected protest group locations. At least 20 people were arrested.
Erdogan is Turkey's longest serving prime minister. He's held office over a decade. He's increasingly unpopular. Anti-government protests challenge him. They continue intermittently. Police state harshness targets them.
Prosecutors claimed alleged neo-nationalists comprised a "deep state." They called it modern-day incarnation of an underground group codenamed Ergenekon.
They said they plotted to oust Erdogan, carry out assassinations, and sow chaos. Critics called charges fabricated. At issue is crushing opposition.
Judges are politically influenced. They know the system. Go along or face recriminations. Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MP, Umut Oran, called proceedings "Erdogan's trial. It is his theater."
"In the 21st century for a country that wants to become a full member of the European Union, this obvious political trial has no legal basis."
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, criticized prosecutorial injustice, saying:
They "murder(ed the) law. The rulings of the specially authorized courts are not legitimate from a legal, political or moral point of view."
"The rulings handed down by these courts are illegitimate. In democracies, individuals are not tried in special courts linked to the political authority but in normal, independent courts which believe in the rule of law."
"These courts don't (administer) justice. Because they are courts under the jurisdiction of the political authority, (they) intend to fulfill their orders. The notion of the rule of law is not valid for these courts."
Peace and Justice Party (BDP) MP Adil Zozani accused prosecutors of committing "crimes against humanity."
Throughout years of proceedings, defendants remained in custody. They were denied them fairness.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Turkey's "administration of justice continues to lag behind international standards."
"Prosecutors frequently prosecute individuals for non-violent speech and writing, and politicians sue their critics for criminal defamation."
"Courts convict with insufficient consideration for the obligation to protect freedom of expression."
"The government has yet to carry out a comprehensive review of all existing laws that restrict freedom of expression."
"Thousands charged with alleged terrorism offenses remain in prison throughout their trials."
Many are Kurdish activists. Others include Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) officials, journalists, trade unionists, students, human rights activists, and lawyers representing them.
Anyone protesting for justice is vulnerable. Turkish judicial fairness doesn't exist.
According to Political Science Professor Ilter Turan:
"It is highly possible that today's court verdicts will prompt further soul searching, especially among opponents that became more politicized after the June protests."
"Some might have plotted a military coup, but there were such evident violations of defense, of the right to a fair trial, that the public will widely consider this a political trial rather than a fair one."
Defense lawyers plan appeals. They'll do so to Turkey's Supreme Court. They'll likely find it unreceptive. Police states operate that way.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.