News / Europe

Turkey Mired in Political Division Over Retrial

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (C) addresses his supporters upon his arrival to Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Dec. 27, 2013.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (C) addresses his supporters upon his arrival to Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Dec. 27, 2013.
Dorian Jones
A statement released by the Turkish armed forces Monday said recent convictions of hundreds of senior officers accused of seeking to overthrow the government was part of a conspiracy, and called for an investigation.  

Since the government came to power in 2002, hundreds of people have been jailed in Turkey for separate alleged plots to overthrow the government. They include the country's former military chief and other top commanders.

But the legitimacy of those trials was questioned recently after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's top political adviser suggested that those officers had been framed by groups within the police and judiciary. The government is now accusing those groups of orchestrating a massive corruption probe that has targeted the prime minister's allies.

Over the weekend, Erdogan said he was open to a retrial of those convicted.    

"Our position on a retrial is a favorable one," he told reporters on Sunday.  "First, we must establish the legal grounding for fresh trials."

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Group says the call for a retrial of convicted military officers is a remarkable turnaround.

"They were trying to overthrow the elected government and the same government is now forgiving them. And why this government is forgiving them? Because it makes the assumption that these generals were indicted by the so-called parallel state. The main objective is not more transparency or sense of justice, but the main objective is to harm this parallel state," said Aktar.   

The government has pointed fingers at the followers of a U.S.-based Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, for the corruption investigation, saying he has many followers in the judiciary.

Gulen, who is based in Pennsylvania, has denied any involvement. But some analysts say prosecutors loyal to Gulen were at the forefront of the charges.

Retired Brigadier General Haldun Solmazturk says the change in the government’s stance will help repair relations with its armed forces.

"We knew from the very beginning that these cases were not legal, just political. These trials were perceived as direct attacks to the armed forces as an institution, by their own government as a whole. Obviously many if not all officers, were extremely unhappy with this situation and the top brass was under extreme pressure to do something," said Solmazturk.

Turkey's secular military has staged three government takeovers since the 1960s, but has seen its powers curbed by the decade-long rule of Erdogan's Islam-based government.

Political scientist Aktar says while acknowledging there were shortcomings in the coup trials, they were crucial to establishing civilian control over the army, a process he fears has stalled.

"The government is very happy with an army which does not harm it. Otherwise it's very far from being the demilitarization as we have seen, for instance in Spain," he said.

But the prospect of the release of those convicted of plotting against the government could prove a step too far for some key members of the ruling AK Party.  Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc last week ruled out such a possibility.

Analyst Aktar says Erdogan faces a hard sell.

"There are many in the party we know are against the retrial of the putschist generals and it will be very difficult for the government [to] make it accepted by the party and also by its constituency," he said.

The weakening of the political influence of Turkey’s armed forces is widely seen as one of the most important achievements of Erdogan’s rule. But, observers warn with key local elections looming, the results of the polls will depend on how well the prime minister sells to his constituents any retrial of the convicted generals.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs