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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.