Separately, scores of journalists, academics, and others are involved in mass trials for involvement in an alleged deep state network. Hundreds of Kurdish politicians and activists have also been detained as part of a sprawling antiterror investigation.
“This is not about whether you’re pro-military or antimilitary, it’s about the rule of law,” says Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist at the daily Milliyet newspaper. “Do we want to live in a country where political opponents are eliminated by trials that are unconvincing? I find it very disturbing.”
But many Turks have scant sympathy for a military that for decades brutalized its own people and overthrew four governments as self-appointed guardian of the secular state forged by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
“I’m not going to say that the deficiencies in due process is the main aspect in [the Sledgehammer] case,” says Sahin Alpay, a columnist for Today’s Zaman newspaper. “It’s helping to put an end to the political role of the armed forces.”
Turkey’s long history of military intervention in civilian rule began in 1960, when the army overthrew Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was then tried before a kangaroo court and executed.
After seizing power again in 1971, it staged a third coup in 1980, detaining 650,000 people. Of them, 230,000 were tried, 14,000 stripped of citizenship, 50 executed, and 171 killed in custody.