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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs