Sunday, February 13, 2011

Turkish PM Erdogan Consolidates His Islamist Regime By Purging The Military

The government of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan took a major step towards consolidating its regime by conducting what amount to show trials of high ranking military officers and political opponents on charges that they attempted to overthrow Erdogan's Islamist government in 2003.

A Turkish court ruled Friday, February 12th that 133 current and former Turkish military officers must be immediately arrested and jailed pending the outcome of their trial on charges of plotting to overthrow the government and issued warrants for the immediate arrests of 29 other officers.

The Erdogan government was obviously made aware of the ruling in advance. As soon as the ruling was issued by the bench, the court's doors were sealed, security forces cleared the courtroom and the defendants, including the former air force and navy chiefs were immediately arrested and are being held without bail.The defendants face between 15 and 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of "attempting to topple the government by force."

At the same time, more than 400 others — including academics, journalists, politicians and soldiers — are on trial on separate charges of plotting to bring down the government.

Both 'conspiracies' - dubbed "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) and "Ergenekon" - appear to be based on fairly flimsy evidence.

This is no small matter.Turkey's 1982 constitution proclaims Turkey's system of government as democratic, secular, and parliamentary and the country's original Constitution makes the military the guardian of Turkey's secular rule. The largely secular Turkish military has historically been a check on both Islamist and Leftist elements in the country.

Erdogan and the AKP party checkmated that role by winning a referendum on September 12, 2010 on constitutional amendments that removed the remaining obstacles to its absolute power, targeting the courts and the military.

Among other things, the referendum allowed Erdogan to change the rules and try retired members of the Turkish military in civil court who participated in the last military coup against an Islamist government, back in 1980 when Turkey was beset by internal violence. It also allows him to try the current 'conspirators' in civilian rather than military courts. This ensures that the Turkish military will no longer be the guard of secularism that it was, and to guarantee that, the very composition of the military is being changed as AKP President Abdullah Gul has been intervening in promotions and appointments of generals to block all non-Islamists from acquiring command positions.

Second, to make sure the outcome of the trials aren't in doubt, the new changes expanded the nation’s constitutional court from 11 to 17 judges and provides that the prime minister, Erdogan appointed 14 of them, with the legislature - that's Erdogan's AKP Party - choosing the other three.

Having finished appointing his hand picked new judges, Erdogan is using them to get rid of political opposition to him in the military and civil society, and to further consolidate the AKP's rule and the increasing Islamization of Turkish law and society.

Nor is this simply a local matter. Turkey is a full fledged NATO member with the largest conventional military in Europe and full access to all of NATO's security secrets. Aside from pursuing Islamism at home, Erdogan's foreign policy has involved distancing Turkey from the West and cozying up to Iran and Syria, even to the extent of ignoring the UN sanctions . Iran, in fact, has reportedly agreed to contribute $25 million to the AKP to help Erdogan and his party in the coming elections, Turkish-Iranian trade has gone up 86 percent in the past year and Iranians have been using Turkish shell companies as the lifeline for supplies for Iran's missile program.

Small wonder Iran's President Ahmadinejad has lauded Turkey as Iran's ally on repeated occasions.

We are watching the transformation of Turkey from a secular democracy allied to the West into something very different right before our eyes.

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