News / Europe

Turkish Court Upholds Convictions of Top Officers Over Coup Plot

Relatives of detained military officers hold a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, and  shout slogans in front of a courthouse in Ankara October 9, 2013.
Relatives of detained military officers hold a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, and shout slogans in front of a courthouse in Ankara October 9, 2013.
Reuters
Turkey's appeals court upheld convictions on Wednesday of top retired military officers for leading a plot to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government a decade ago, in a case underlining civilian dominance over a once all-powerful army.
 
Relatives of the retired officers wept after the ruling and a defense lawyer said he would take the case to Europe's top human rights court.
 
The judges overturned convictions of dozens of less prominent defendants among more than 300 officers sentenced in September 2012 over the “Sledgehammer” conspiracy, said to have included plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and trigger an army takeover.
 
Turkey's armed forces, the second largest in NATO, were long the guardians of the secular republic established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, carrying out three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pushing an Islamist-led government from power in 1997.
 
Since first coming to power in 2002, Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party has reined in army influence with a series of reforms designed to boost democracy, while prosecutors have pursued suspected coup-plotters in the army through the courts.
 
The latest verdict underlines the extent to which Erdogan has brought the military to heel during his decade as prime minister, consolidating his power as he prepares for an election cycle starting next year which could see him become president.

Expressions of anger

In a packed courtroom, supporters of the defendants noisily voiced their anger at the upheld convictions as the chief judge spoke, chanting the secularist slogan “we are Mustafa Kemal's soldiers” and “Tayyip will answer to the people.”
 
Dozens protested outside the court, waving Turkish flags adorned with Ataturk's picture. “We know well it is Ataturk being tried,” said one banner held by the group, which then marched to Turkey's military headquarters before dispersing.
 
Defense lawyer Celal Ulgen said the court had accepted fabricated evidence as genuine and that the judiciary in Turkey was subject to political manipulation.
 
“They want to redesign Turkey with these political trials,” said Ulgen, who defended chief suspect Cetin Dogan.
 
“This is the dissolution of the [Turkish] Republic and a fundamental indication that we are faced with a new regime,” he said, vowing to challenge the verdicts at the European Court of Human Rights.
 
Accusations of political interference
 
The appeals court upheld 20-year prison sentences for chief suspect Dogan, a former commander of the prestigious First Army, former air force commander Ibrahim Firtina and retired admiral Ozden Ornek, court chairman Ekrem Ertugrul said.
 
Among other leading figures whose convictions were upheld were Engin Alan, a retired general elected to parliament as a member of the National Movement Party in 2011, and retired general Bilgin Balanli, who had been in line to become air force commander before his arrest.
 
In total, the court upheld convictions in the three-year trial process of 237 defendants and ruled in favor of the release of 88 defendants. It also upheld the previous acquittal of 36 defendants.
 
Opposition MP Emine Ulker Tarhan echoed Ulgen's allegation that the court ruling was politically motivated.
 
“This is not a verdict by the judiciary, it is a government verdict. Justice has collapsed in this country. They can build a shopping mall in its place,” Tarhan told reporters, playing on accusations that the government is more focused on superficial projects than substantive reforms.
 
There was no immediate government comment on the verdicts but Mustafa Varank, an advisor to Erdogan, wrote on Twitter: “Hopefully the rulings will be a lesson and the coup word will not even cross anybody's mind”.
 
Sledgehammer and other trials have sparked accusations that the government was using courts to silence political opponents, and rights groups have criticized the number of journalists, lawyers and politicians held in jail pending verdicts.
 
A separate Turkish court in August jailed a former military chief for life and imprisoned scores of other leading figures in connection with the separate Ergenekon conspiracy to overthrow the government.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Secret Service Head: Breach 'Will Never Happen Again'

update Julia Pierson answers questions about the latest break-in well as several other embarrassing incidents involving the agency More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid