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

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

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.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs