News / Europe

    Turkish Courts Order Release of Convicted Military Conspirators

    Pro-secular demonstrators wait for the release of former army chief Ilker Basbug outside the Silivri prison complex near Istanbul, Turkey, March 7, 2014.
    Pro-secular demonstrators wait for the release of former army chief Ilker Basbug outside the Silivri prison complex near Istanbul, Turkey, March 7, 2014.
    Dorian Jones
    Turkish courts have ordered that high-ranking generals convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government be released from prison, casting a shadow over the ruling AK Party’s achievement of having removed the Turkish army from politics. The move has prompted speculation that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan now may be looking to the army for help in his battle against a powerful religious cleric, Fetullah Gulen.
     
    Since Friday, more than a dozen people, including a former chief of armed forces, retired high-ranking officers, a journalist and a leader of a fringe political party, have been released from jail. All were received long prison sentences after being convicted last year of belonging to the alleged Ergenekon conspiracy, which prosecutors claim sought to overthrow the government.

    Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Forum said that some of those released committed serious offenses. "Amongst them there are sheer putschists: even according to the prime minister, there are many amongst them who were preparing a coup d'etat. There are also people who were involved landmark assassinations, like the [the killings of a] high court judge or the journalist of Armenian origin Hrant Dink. Overall, it tells us the present mindset of the government."

    Government reforms

    The government has welcomed the releases. It follows legal reforms introduced by the government which stipulates that a person can only be incarcerated for five years while awaiting the completion of the judicial process. While those released had been convicted, all are appealing their convictions.

    Kadri Gursel, a columnist for Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper, said the move is an attempt by the government to make peace with the army because it believes it now faces a more serious threat.

    "It’s a ramification of the ongoing conflict between the AKP government and its ex-de facto coalition partner, the Gulen movement. Because in a deadly fight, the government badly needs to neutralize its potential enemies, including the military," said Gursel.

    Fetullah Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, but analysts say he has many followers within both Turkey's police and its judiciary. The AK Party accuses Gulen supporters of trying to overthrow the government through a series of corruption probes alleging high-level government corruption. The prime minister has also accused Gulen supporters of fabricating cases against the army.

    Basbug speaks out

    Critics of the Ergenekon case and similar cases claim they were flawed trials. Speaking to reporters upon his release Friday, the former head of Turkey's military, Ilker Basbug, steadfastly insisted he was innocent and the victim of a conspiracy.

    "Those who acted with hatred and revenge kept us here for 26 months," he said. "They stole 26 months of my life."
     
    Basbug said he would campaign for the release of hundreds of his fellow officers still in jail.

    Observers point out that despite any legal failings in the cases against the army, however, the trials were key to ending the military’s political meddling. Since 1960, Turkey's military has forced four governments out of power -- the last in 1997.

    With the release of some of those convicted of conspiring against the government, the demilitarization process could be coming to an end, according to political scientist Aktar. He warns, though, that the government could be playing a dangerous game.

    "Some put ... the military now as the new ally of the government. But the government has never contemplated a fully fledged demilitarization like in developed mature democracies. No one can pretend the military has completely dropped [the idea of] intervening in political affairs," said Aktar.

    Columnist Gursel said that with so many senior military members jailed over the past five years, the army is unlikely to return to day-to-day meddling in politics.
     
    "Now the military has no such instrument, [no] such a capacity, remaining after these [court] cases. But if the system collapses, if the state institutions become more dysfunctional, if the economy worsens, if Turkey becomes unmanageable, no one can predict what will happen. I [would] never say the army has no capacity to intervene. But we are far from it, I think," said Gursel.

    But the government remains mired in corruption allegations and engaged in an increasingly bitter battle with Gulen supporters within the Turkish state and wider society. Observers say that with the atmosphere deeply polarized, sporadic violent protests ongoing and three elections scheduled to take place over the next 15 months, the country still faces severe tests.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora