Hans Rustad

AKP-regjeringen fort­set­ter sin kam­panje mot hæren. 162 offi­se­rer ble arres­tert før hel­gen, ankla­get for å ha plan­lagt å styrte regjeringen.

Kri­ti­kerne mener det hele er arran­gert for å kom­pro­mit­tere og detro­ni­sere hæren. Retts­sa­ken mot hundre­vis av offi­se­rer, døpt Sledge­ham­mer, begynte i desem­ber, og gjen­opp­tas 14. mars.

ISTANBUL: Tur­kish police began arre­s­ting 162 reti­red and ser­ving mili­tary offi­cers, inclu­ding for­mer top com­man­ders, who are on trial accu­sed of plot­ting a coup in 2003 to topple Prime Minis­ter Tayyip Erdogan’s govern­ment. The trial of alleged plot­ters of “Sledge­ham­mer” reflects a lin­ge­ring mis­trust between the tra­ditio­nally secu­lar mili­tary and a ruling party that cri­tics say retains Isla­mist lea­nings. Erdo­gan denies plan­ning to roll back the secu­lar con­sti­tu­tion, and his AK Party goes into an election in June as firm favo­rite to win a third con­se­cutive term, but the case is among a series of dome­stic and for­eign policy challenges.

A court in Silivri, west of Istan­bul, issued the arrest war­rants for the defen­dants on Fri­day. In total 196 offi­cers are on trial, around three-quarters of them still ser­ving, and most have been in and out of deten­tion in the past year. Not all of them atten­ded Friday’s hea­ring. After the court served arrest war­rants, 133 were taken for health checks before being escorted on Satur­day eit­her to the town’s pri­son or, for those on active duty, a mili­tary pri­son in Istan­bul. The remai­ning 29 were expec­ted to
sur­ren­der them­sel­ves at a court­house in Istanbul.

Tele­vi­sion ima­ges showed a coach and two mini-buses taking the defen­dants to pri­son. Con­cerns about poli­ti­cal ten­sions are for now unlikely to unsettle inves­tors, well-used to Turkey’s tur­bu­lent poli­ti­cal scene, so finan­cial mar­kets are not expec­ted to move for now. Gene­ral Cetin Dogan, for­mer com­man­der of the pre­sti­gious First Army, and reti­red com­man­ders of the navy and air force, Admi­ral Ozden Ornek and Gene­ral Halil Ibra­him Firtina, were among the defen­dants that the court orde­red to be arrested.

The trial, which began in Decem­ber, was adjour­ned to March 14, and the chief judge pressed for an inte­rim ver­dict to be read. Defense lawyers said their argu­ments were being over­looked and the arrests were unjus­ti­fied. They objected to a change in jud­ges during an ear­lier hea­ring. “There is abso­lutely no risk they will escape. I have been an att­or­ney for 33 years and I can’t believe what’s hap­pe­ning on this case, this is a trave­sty of jus­tice,” defense lawyer Sule Nazli Erol told CNN Turk.

The “Sledge­ham­mer” plot allegedly involved plans to bomb his­to­ric mos­ques and pro­voke con­flict with Gre­ece, as part of a plan to under­mine the govern­ment and enable a mili­tary take­over. The defen­dants, impor­tant figu­res in NATO’s second big­gest army, deny any con­spi­racy and say the ‘plot’ was a war game exer­cise at a mili­tary semi­nar seven years ago. If found guilty, they could face 15 to 20 years in prison.

Since coming to power, the AK Party govern­ment has used reforms desig­ned to boost Turkey’s Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship bid to rein in the aut­hority of an army that has topp­led four civi­lian govern­ments since 1960. Erdo­gan has also dri­ven an eco­no­mic trans­for­ma­tion which has shif­ted power to a new emer­ging busi­ness class and away from old eli­tes made up of gene­rals, jud­ges and edu­ca­tors devoted to the secu­lar vision of the republic’s foun­der, Mus­tafa Kemal Ata­turk. Hund­reds of defen­dants are alre­ady on trial
at the same court in con­nec­tion with a series of alleged coup plots allegedly orchestrated by the sha­dowy Ergene­kon network. - Reuters

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