Trial in Turkey Exposes a Political Divide

WORTHY NEWS

BY NICOLAS BIRCH

Case Alleging Generals Participated in a Plot to Bring Down Government Puts Spotlight on Future of Secular Democracy

Demonstrators protested coups in Istanbul on Saturday, in support of an investigation into a group, including two retired generals, alleged to have conspired to bring down Turkey's Islam-rooted government. The trial begins on Monday.

Demonstrators protested coups in Istanbul on Saturday, in support of an investigation into a group, including two retired generals, alleged to have conspired to bring down Turkey's Islam-rooted government. The trial begins on Monday.

ISTANBUL — Fifty-six alleged coup plotters, including two retired four-star generals, are set to go on trial Monday at a high-security prison in Turkey in a case that has exposed deep fissures over how to assure the future of Turkey’s secular democracy.

Dubbed “the trial of the century” in the Turkish media, it has split the country between those who see the case as the beginning of the end of decades of military meddling in politics, and those who believe the charges are trumped up by a government with Islamist roots that is determined to undermine Turkey’s secular guardians.

Many in the country, ranging from Muslim conservatives to secular-minded Turks, support the case as an important step in bolstering a civilian democracy.

The trial is expected to continue for months.

Prosecutors accuse the generals, the highest-ranking officers charged in Turkey’s 63-year history of multiparty democracy, of leading a conspiracy aimed at toppling the government of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in power since 2002.

The lawyer for a key figure in the case, former military police chief Gen. Sener Eruygur, described the charges against her client as “malicious lies.”

Turkey’s military has toppled four governments since 1960, and was empowered to protect Turkey’s secular order in the current constitution, drafted by a military junta in 1982. But a decade of political changes aimed at bringing Turkey in line with European Union norms have weakened its grip on power.

Meanwhile, the military command itself has become divided about its proper role in Turkey’s changing political system: While some officers have become more authoritarian and anti-Western, others favor a moderate approach.

Analysts say the unprecedented arrest of dozens of active and retired soldiers in connection with the alleged conspiracy wouldn’t have been possible without the consent of the Turkish military’s current chief of staff, Gen. Ilker Basbug.

The investigation into the alleged group of plotters, dubbed Ergenekon after a legend concerning the Turks’ Central Asian origins, has polarized the country since it began in June 2007 with the police discovery of a weapons cache in an Istanbul suburban house belonging to a military petty-officer.

Many secularists say the investigation is a scheme sponsored by the government to discredit secular rivals, starting with the army. The government denies this.

Others see the arrests and prosecution as a test of the EU candidate country’s march toward a fully civilian democracy. The military denies links to Ergenekon.

In another twist last week, pro-government newspapers alleged that members of a board responsible for appointing magistrates were trying to stifle investigations by removing prosecutors in charge of the Ergenekon case. A spokesman for the board denied the allegations.

On Saturday, thousands of protestors marched in central Istanbul, chanting, “Keep your hands off our prosecutors.” A mixed crowd of Muslim conservatives and left-leaning Turks brandished placards that read, “No to military coups.”

“For years, soldiers have breathed down the necks of people in this country,” said Emel Caliskan, a 22-year old student. “But we are not children: if we like a party, we vote for it. If we get fed up with it, we vote it out.”

With friction between Turkish state institutions on the rise, even Turks who see the Ergenekon case as a crucial step toward a civilian democracy in Turkey fear it may do as much harm as good — essentially putting a political decision into the hands of the courts.

“The court case has projected social polarizations onto the judicial system, diminishing its already fragile reputation for independence,” said Umit Cizre, an academic who has written books on civilian-military relations. “There is nobody left to trust.”

The indictment made public in March charges the group with alleged provocations that included ordering grenade attacks on a secularist newspaper in May 2006 and the murder of a judge the same month.

The judge’s murder, blamed at first on Islamists, sparked outrage. At his funeral, AKP cabinet ministers narrowly escaped an angry crowd. Within months, millions of secular-minded Turks had taken to the streets to protest the government.

But in December 2008, Turkey’s High Court of Appeals ruled that the man another court had sentenced to life in prison for the killing should be retried as part of the Ergenekon conspiracy. According to the indictment, the murder had been a provocation dreamed up by members of Ergenekon to convince the public that Islam was a threat.

Technorati : AKPALLAHBREAKING NEWSERGENEKON CONSPIRACYErgenekonGen. Sener EruygurHEADSCARF BANISLAMISLAMISTSISTANBULLATEST NEWSNEWSPOLITICS,PROPHET MOHAMMEDQURANRELIGIONSECULAR TURKEYTRIAL IN TURKEYTURKEY,TURKEY DEMONSTRATIONSTURKEY DEMONSTRATORSTURKISH EU MEMBERSHIPTURKISH MEDIATURKS
Del.icio.us : AKPALLAHBREAKING NEWSERGENEKON CONSPIRACYErgenekonGen. Sener EruygurHEADSCARF BANISLAMISLAMISTSISTANBULLATEST NEWSNEWSPOLITICS,PROPHET MOHAMMEDQURANRELIGIONSECULAR TURKEYTRIAL IN TURKEYTURKEY,TURKEY DEMONSTRATIONSTURKEY DEMONSTRATORSTURKISH EU MEMBERSHIPTURKISH MEDIATURKS
Zooomr : AKPALLAHBREAKING NEWSERGENEKON CONSPIRACYErgenekonGen. Sener EruygurHEADSCARF BANISLAMISLAMISTSISTANBULLATEST NEWSNEWSPOLITICS,PROPHET MOHAMMEDQURANRELIGIONSECULAR TURKEYTRIAL IN TURKEYTURKEY,TURKEY DEMONSTRATIONSTURKEY DEMONSTRATORSTURKISH EU MEMBERSHIPTURKISH MEDIATURKS
Flickr : AKPALLAHBREAKING NEWSERGENEKON CONSPIRACYErgenekonGen. Sener EruygurHEADSCARF BANISLAMISLAMISTSISTANBULLATEST NEWSNEWSPOLITICS,PROPHET MOHAMMEDQURANRELIGIONSECULAR TURKEYTRIAL IN TURKEYTURKEY,TURKEY DEMONSTRATIONSTURKEY DEMONSTRATORSTURKISH EU MEMBERSHIPTURKISH MEDIATURKS

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One comment on “Trial in Turkey Exposes a Political Divide

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