Our article in The New Republic

24 Mayıs 2010


For the last three years Turkey has been gripped by an extraordinary series of legal proceedings revolving around an alleged conspiracy to destabilize and eventually topple the country’s conservative-Islamist government. Prosecutors, supported by leading members of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), have accused a large number of military officers and their supposed civilian accomplices with membership in a secret network, dubbed the “Ergenekon terror organization” after an ancient Turkish myth, and charged them with crimes ranging from murder and bombings to intimidation of religious minorities and coup plots. The cases have ensnared hundreds of current and retired military officers, journalists, academics, and lawyers—as well as a chief prosecutor and even a former mayor of Istanbul. Many are being kept in jail for months pending trial. While some of the trials have started, none has been concluded and there has yet to be a single conviction.

To many observers it looks as if a popular, democratic regime is finally wresting itself free from the tight grip of the army and hard-line secularists, and, for the first time, is bringing the old guard to account for its transgressions. Traditionally, the military has set the boundaries of political life in Turkey. And the army’s high command has assumed responsibility for reining in political groups that it feels stray too far from secularism. On several occasions it has even removed from office governments that it felt were too weak in the face of domestic discord. But if you look closer at the details of these cases and the thousands of pages of indictments produced by the prosecutors, a much uglier reality begins to emerge.  

What lies behind the trials is an apparent effort to discredit the government’s opponents on the basis of the flimsiest evidence and often, far worse, by framing them with planted evidence and forged documents. While a handful of the hundreds who have been accused may be guilty of some wrongdoing, the conduct of many of the prosecutors leaves little doubt that they are pursuing a political agenda, instead of seeking to uncover actual crimes and identify true culprits. Deception at such a scale would be unimaginable without at least the implicit cooperation of members of the government.

Read the rest here.

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