The “February 28” trial is the latest in a series of legal probes of the Turkish military by an AKP-friendly judicial branch.
The infamous “Ergenekon” trial, which began in 2008, has turned into a massive legal undertaking consisting of several cases. More than 250 people – including generals, politicians, academics, rights activists, journalists, and even students – are being investigated on charges that they belong to a clandestine terror network intent on overthrowing the government of Erdogan’s ruling party.
“Sledgehammer” is another case in which hundreds of retired and active officers are being investigated over an alleged 2003 coup plot against the AKP government.
Hundreds of retired and active officers are being investigated as a part of these investigations. More than 180 of them are in pre-trial detention, including the former chief of the Turkish armed forces, former chiefs of the Navy and Air Force, and several high-profile generals and admirals. More importantly, around 60 active generals and admirals are behind bars, making up more than 19 percent of the Turkish military’s top brass.
Many aspects of these investigations contradict the principles of democratic governance and rule of law. Most of the suspects are behind bars without any verdict in their cases. The Council of Europe recently raised concerns about the withholding of evidence from defendants at the investigation stage (often extending into years) which deprives them of the opportunity to challenge their detentions.
The European Union’s 2010 progress report on Turkey says the Ergenekon case and “several” of the coup probes raise concerns about “judicial guarantees for all suspects.”
Independent forensic experts also discovered that a significant portion of the evidence used against the suspects is forged or their authenticity is questionable. Those who write about such irregularities often face a powerful defamation campaign by the dominant pro-AKP media.