Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Turkey's "Ergenekon" Political Show Trial Concludes
After 5 years, the "Ergenekon" conspiracy trial in Turkey has ended with an expected verdict that will widen the deep divides in Turkey between Islamists and non-Islamists.
After Tayipp Erdoğan and the AKP took power, revised Turkey's constitution and stacked the courts with Islamist friendly judges, they set out to destroy their political opposition, largely rooted in the military, Turkey's constitutionally mandated guardian of secular government since the days of Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey.
The trial was based on a charge of conspiring to overthrow the Erdoğan government -"Ergenekon" is the name of a mythical valley where a wolf supposedly saved Turks from being annihilated - but in the end the suspects were not only senior military members but included politicians, journalists and academics.
In true show trial fashion, it was largely conducted in secret, no credible evidence was ever produced against the vast majority of the accused and in the end, there were a record number of 254 guilty verdicts,19 of whom received life imprisonment, including retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ, who was the chief of staff of the Turkish military from 2008 to 2010 and was convicted without any evidence he was involved in any attempted coup. The verdicts came even after some defendants were able to prove during the trial that data and documents that incriminated them were loaded into their computers by the police after their arrests 'accidentally'.
On Monday when the verdicts were announced, all main access roads to the courthouse in the coastal town of Silivri were closed, as was airspace above it. Police fired rounds of tear gas on groups of protesters and pushed back crowds attempting to approach the building, the defendants’ relatives were not allowed inside the courtroom and only carefully selected journalists were allowed to observe the sentencing.
Most Turks love conspiracy theories, so the governments tales of a 'deep state' shadow network originally resonated at first. But the subsequent waves of arrests and the way the trials themselves were conducted have convinced many Turks that this was nothing but a settling of scores against the regime's political opponents. Among the defendants currently jailed who were sentenced for Ergenekon charges were journalists Mustafa Balbay, Tuncay Özkan and Hikmet Çiçek, with Balbay and Çiçek receiving 34 and 21 years respectively and Özkan being sentenced to life in prison. They appear to be guilty of nothing other than writing against an Islamist takeover of Turkey and criticizing the increasingly autocratic Erdoğan government.
The defendants can appeal the verdicts,but given how Erdoğan and the AKP have stacked the courts, this is pretty much a done deal, for now.
This has added resonance in view of the harsh police crack downs recently on anti-Erdoğan protestors nationwide.