News / Europe

    Unease Grows Over Trial of Alleged Turkish Coup Plotters

    Security forces use water cannons to disperse protesters outside a courthouse in Silivri, where a hearing on people charged with attempting to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government is due to take place, Apr. 8, 2013.
    Security forces use water cannons to disperse protesters outside a courthouse in Silivri, where a hearing on people charged with attempting to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government is due to take place, Apr. 8, 2013.
    Dorian Jones
    The trial involving an alleged conspiracy by the Turkish military to overthrow the government is coming under increasing criticism both inside Turkey and internationally. The landmark trial was heralded as part of the government’s efforts to bring the army under civilian control. But, concern has grown as the case has implicated a wider array of government critics.
     
    Earlier this month, police used water cannon and gas to disperse thousands of protesters who had gathered outside the courthouse in the Silivri Prison just outside Istanbul, where alleged participants in the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy are being tried.

    When the Ergenekon trial started, it was widely seen as an historic moment, with senior members of Turkey's staunchly pro-secular army on trial for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Islamic rooted government. But five years on, prosecutors have cast their net far beyond the army, indicting 275 people, including members of parliament, journalists and academics.

    Bedri Baykam, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party who has campaigned against the trial, says it is now out of control.
     
    "There is no concrete whatsoever evidence, proof shown against them, and still they have been cut off from their families, businesses, their jobs, for five-six years in the most productive part of their lives - their forties and fifties. How much is going on there in 2013 and the world has chosen to play the three monkeys - haven’t heard, haven’t seen and don’t want to talk," said Baykam.

    The international community is starting to voice concern. The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report cited the prolonged pretrial detention of many of the defendants. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch also criticized the case, saying there are serious concerns over the fairness of the trial.

    Lale Kemal, a political columnist for the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, acknowledges the need to address the lengthy pretrial detentions. But he says the Ergenekon trial is nonetheless playing an important role in democratizing Turkey, by calling to account anti-democratic forces known as the “deep state.”

    "We should be settling our scores with the illegal deep state elements of this country if we really want stability [and] democracy," sais Kemal. "It’s the core duty of any parliament or civilian authority or government to end the military’s interference in Turkish politics."
     
    Since 1960, the Turkish army has had a tradition of meddling in politics, having forced from power four elected governments. Kadri Gursel, a political columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, says while the trial’s original objectives were commendable, it has become a missed opportunity for the country.  

    "There have been some clandestine groups trying to invoke the ideas of a coup d'etat," said Gursel. "But it has been turned into an ideological prosecution, persecution, including all kinds of people with a common denomination of being opposed to the government. Now, the justice system has emerged from this trial as a deeply politicized, biased justice. One cannot build democracy on problematic trials."

    The government insists the judiciary is independent, and it continues to defend the ongoing trial. But Hasim Kilic, the chief justice of Turkey’s Constitutional Court, acknowledged last week growing public unease over the politicization of the judiciary.

    The judiciary will have no chance of surviving if it only protects the lifestyles of people from a certain ideology while neglecting the freedoms of others." said Kilic. "An unfair justice is oppressive, he says, adding that being fair is essential for everyone, but an absolute must for members of judiciary."
     
    How the judiciary heeds that warning, observers say, could determine whether the Ergenekon trial heralds a new era of democracy or merely marks the transition from one authoritarian system to another.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Savas from: Davis, California
    May 01, 2013 6:02 PM
    In many countries, the name of "democracy" is expoused but few know the true meaning of this practice. If the judicial system of a country keeps people it considers criminals in detention for years and don't charge them with a crime, that country has no democracy or freedom. If a country declares that freedom of speech exists but places many who freely express their views in detention "after" they expressed their views, such a country has no freedom of speech. Turkey under the government of Mr. Erdogan is such a country. One can find many reasons to lock someone up but refraining from doing so is the democratic behavior.

    by: Major Ozlam from: Turkey
    May 01, 2013 2:17 AM
    there is no doubt that Turkey is imploding. Europe is hoping for a Military coup and will help to bring it about, but the Turkish Military has been pulverized and its spirit has been broken. Turkish soldiers are raping Syrian refugees on the border... bribery and corruption is everywhere... the Turkish Government had been trying to keep the lid over these facts but they are loosing control...

    by: Ex Turkish Military from: Canada
    April 30, 2013 5:07 PM
    Ergodan has been trying to bring the Military under Islamic control. not "civilian" control... he employed extrajudicial detentions, torture, property confiscations, rape and terrorism to scare the Military... once the pride of Turkey and the guardian of Turkish secular civilized Government. now, look at the Military - paralyzed with fear - that is Islam - fear and degradation

    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.