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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    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 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 Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    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.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.