A weird, weird trial

15 Aralık 2010

IN ENGLISH

The most significant court case in Turkey in at least five decades is about to start. Nearly two hundred retired and active-duty officers will be on trial for having plotted back in 2003 to destabilize the country through violent acts (including the bombing of mosques and the downing of a Turkish fighter jet) and to overthrow the AKP government. Defendant no. 1 in this trial, and the alleged leader of the coup plot, is my father-in-law, Cetin Dogan.

The tragedy is that this is as much a show trial as the one that took place on the tiny Yassiada island almost exactly 50 years ago. Then, the roles were reversed. A military junta (that time, a real one) had deposed the elected government and placed the president, prime minister, and cabinet ministers on trial on trumped up charges.

True to form, history is repeating itself as a farce. The evidence behind the current case, a trove of documents on CDs delivered to a newspaper by a “secret informer,” consists of blatant forgeries. These documents are allegedly secret military plans from 2003 detailing the coup preparations. Yet they contain anachronisms that leave no doubt that they were prepared in late 2008 at the earliest.

The most striking among these anachronisms are the references to entities — firms, NGOs, military installations, hospitals – by names that they had yet to acquire. It’s as if a text pretending to be from 1970 referred to Diana Spencer as Princess of Wales—a title which she acquired only in 1981—or mentioned her car crash decades later. To any but the most jaundiced eye it is obvious that the incriminating documents have been authored not by the military officers on trial, but by others many years later.

(Don’t take our word. Look at the evidence for yourself — here for the overview, and here for the details.)

But wait. Isn’t Turkey a democracy now, where such things aren’t supposed to happen?

Alas, the case says much about Turkey at present, not any of it pretty. The AKP government has fanned the flames against the defendants and exploited the case for political purposes. The pro-government media have disgraced themselves by publishing a steady stream of disinformation on the case (just check out Today’s Zaman for a good dose of it on a daily basis). Many leading members of the Turkish liberal intelligentsia have chosen to disregard the fabricated evidence lest their cherished narrative of a democratic government putting an end to “military tutelage” get tarnished.

As for the once-powerful military establishment, it stands so weakened by its own history of coups and meddling in politics, that it has been totally incapable of putting up a credible storyline. Even a smallish municipal public works department would have done a better job defending itself against the kind of massive miscarriage of justice that this case represents.

Watch how this trial unfolds, for it will say a lot about where Turkey is headed. If the evidence of forgery is disregarded and the charges aren’t dismissed, we will learn that the rule of law and Turkey don’t belong in the same sentence.

Abone Ol

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11 Yorum “A weird, weird trial”

  1. merttalay Says:

    This post is quite informative.

    First, the bloggers lament the fact that the military establishment was unable to interfere with the proceedings of an independent civilian court. In fact, the defendants of the trial have repeatedly hidden in military complexes to avoid court orders, the personal guards of Mr.Dogan have assaulted police officers in duty who were merely trying to enforce the court order, i.e. law. The high courts of Turkey (which are under heavy influence of military) have started to prosecute the judges of the trial because of their independent decisions – an unprecedented event in Turkish judicial history. And of course we just do not know what kind of pressure the military has exerted to judiciary behind the doors. Apparently, all of these is not enough for the bloggers and the military establishment should have intervened much more.

    Second, the bloggers threaten the court with labeling them “unlawful” if the judges do not rule in certain direction – even before the trial has begun!

    Now this represents a new low for this blog, and I hope it helps English-speaking readers to put this trial into proper context.

    Cevapla

  2. Sarp Says:

    Dear Merttalay,

    I am sure the bloggers will not even try to respond to your comment as it carries no value. The bloggers have repeatedly posted solid evidence that Balyoz case is a big setup. Most of the evidence (the CDs) are manufactured (I am sure there is a technical law term for this) and that has been proved even by TUBITAK reports.

    Does Turkish military intervene politics? Yes. Does Turkish military get involved in lobbying? Yes. But what is being done now is no law. Hundreds of pages of false evidence and the Turkish government assigns a new judge to the case, 2 days before the first hearing…. Guess what will happen next…

    But your comment raises a good point; you mention that “the bloggers are trying to influence the judges”. Hopefully their “simple” blog that posts “simple” facts does affect the judges. As the posts are stating the truth…

    Cevapla

  3. Can Acar Says:

    Dear merttalay,

    It is obvious that you still have reading comprehension problems. The bloggers actually *criticize* the military for not being able to put up sufficient defenses. Perhaps in your mind defense equals meddling and extortion and shady deals. However, the right to defend oneself is an essential part of all modern legal systems. In this particular case, every time the military tried to point out similar inconsistencies, they got shot down and blamed by the media because of their earlier ‘bad record’, just as you are doing now. They were probably not ready for such a psychological campaign and a legal battle against their own nation in the first place. As a result, the children of the accused had to gather all the evidence and point out inconsistencies. This is what they are lamenting about. I would have asked for some empathy, but I know you have none.

    Of course you keep ignoring all the evidence they have been coming up with. They have not even pointed out the gross misconduct that happened a couple of days ago. The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) appointed the head judge leading the case to a different court, just two days before the trial. The new judge will have to catch up with the case (more than 100000 pages including the supporting documents) in two days. He will most likely postpone the trial for a number of months to do so. It is extremely ironic that, when the HSYK tried to change the locations of the judges and prosecutors of a similar high-profile case, Ergenekon, the Minister of Justice intervened and prevented the transfers and the pro-government media protested that ‘this is an intervention by and changes should not be made while trials are going on’. Now, after the recent change in constitution on September 12th, the Ministry of Justice (i.e. the ruling party) has the complete control of HSYK. This time, the pro-government media is applauding the change.

    Law is being manipulated by government-related groups this time. It is obvious that the aim is to stall the trials and keep these people in custody as long as possible. This is against all the fundamental rules of law.

    I know you will keep ignoring these points. However, as you say, the English-speaking readers have the right to know the proper context.

    Regards,

    Cevapla

  4. merttalay Says:

    Dear Can,

    Your points are totally irrelevant. Of course the right to defend oneself is crucial but the prosecuters do not accuse “the military”, they are accusing the group of military officials headed by Mr. Dogan. So why should the military be supposed to defend Mr. Dogan? Is it the job of military to legally defend the actions of its employees? The responsibility to defend himself is on Mr.Dogan, I do not want the military to spend a kurus of my money to defend some individuals.

    If the change of the judge is a plot of the government, how come the members of the HSYK who are coming from the high judiciary (as well as Ali Suat Ertosun) have also voted for the change so that the decision was anonymous? Apparently there was new evidence against judge suggesting that he was involved in serious bribery. As for the evidence you mention, nothing that is brought up in this blog constitutes any evidence, the trial has not even begun yet! These are just the claims of the defendants and should be given fair consideration by the court.

    Cevapla

  5. Can Acar Says:

    Dear merttalay,

    You are once again spreading FUD. Any respectable organization should back up its employees. If I am charged with some unlawful activity while I was doing my job, I full expect my company to back me up with all the legal power it can muster. As you probably know, everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    The fact that the military is not doing it shows the effectiveness of the psychological campaign that is being executed in full force. Anyone raising even a slightest concern about the inconsistencies in the case and the legal rights of the defendants are being labeled as ‘coup supporters’ by the pro-government media.

    Regarding the judge. He is not suspended. He is transferred to a different court. Are not all the cases and courts equal in the eyes of the law? If he is prone to doing misconduct, would he not do it in the new court he is appointed to? Please take a look at the column by Mehmet Yilmaz in Hurriyet who raised this same concern: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/16545498.asp?yazarid=148&gid=61

    It seems some cases are ‘more equal’ than the others.

    It seems you are willing accept CD-ROMs with unknown origins that were bundled together with official records of a military seminar as evidence. This is sufficient for you to assume that the accused are guilty, without a trial.

    Why do you refuse to accept the obvious inconsistencies in these CD-ROMs as evidence as well?

    Regards,

    Cevapla

  6. trssby Says:

    Dear Mertalay,

    “Second, the bloggers threaten the court with labeling them “unlawful” if the judges do not rule in certain direction – even before the trial has begun!”

    I’am the also the reader of this blog. I’ll appreciate very much if you refer me where the bloggers threaten the court with labeling them “unlawful”. Thanks to God here are written everything from the begining till now without any distortion. I’m certain that you can not refer any sentence what you are claming. You are trying to distort and manipulate everything according to your desire like the progoverment media does, for the English readers.

    I was asking to you, now repeating here the same simple question, without geting any answer till today. All your claims are, not on the essence of the trial but rather on distorting the truth.

    Are these evididence’s fabricated? Yes or No? If NOT you have to prove it, like the blogers proved that they wer fabricated.

    Cevapla

  7. merttalay Says:

    Dear Can,

    Mr. Dogan is a “memur” of the government and is being charged with the crime of planning to overthrow it. So you argue that the same government is responsible to defend this individual in court? – after all, the military is an organization under the Prime Ministry. Say you have stolen money from your company and you are being taken to court for this and according to your logic, you expect your company to back you up – since this was an unlawful activity while doing your job. Sorry but this is one of the most ridiculous claims I have heard so far. Moreover, there is no mandate for any governmental organization to support their employees’ cases in court – you cannot use public funds for this purpose. Please give me one example when this has happened.

    How does your point about HSYK prove that this is a government plot? I asked you a simple question – how come the decision is anonymous if this is a plot? About the CDs, no one cares if I or you regard something as evidence. The court, however, HAS accepted the prosecutor’s appeal so they have accepted them as evidence. I have never designated anyone as guilty here, but I want them to appear on court just as any ordinary Turkish citizen. The inconsistencies should be addressed by the prosecutors, so far we have heard just one side of the story. If the court decides that the CDs are actually part of a plot, then of course there should be further investigations about its origins.

    Cevapla

  8. Sarp Says:

    Dear merttalay,

    You have fixed your opinion on the fact that there was a coup plot, which is the reason for this law suit. Therefore, you already found them guilty. Just waiting for this court to prove your point.

    You make this clear by saying you or I don’t care, whatever the court says will be right. That is correct in a functional jurisdictional system, which Turkey does not have anymore.

    You are pointing that HSYK had an anonymous vote. You expected otherwise? All members now will be under heavily influence by the president himself.

    The same court system you blame to be under military influence in the past is now under a political party’s heavy influence. So that is acceptable? Eye-for-an-eye? Where would such system lead other than war (in certain terms?)

    You can’t get out of an argument saying “our word doesn’t count, the court says so” about the CDs. If the third party consultant prove the CDs are artificial evidence, even a reader (like the bloggers) can figure out these are true lies, and yet the court does not accept the evidence there is something wrong with that.

    The case here is so obvious that all the typical weak arguments you carry (the same arguments that Sabah, Taraf and all the cemaat media) fall short…

    Cevapla

  9. Can Acar Says:

    Dear merttalay,

    Unfortunately, you have lost your credibility long ago by supporting an eye-for-an-eye approach against military. You can no longer claim that you are impartial and only want to see justice done. Yet, you don’t need to worry. The defendants *are* appearing at the court right now, just like any other Turkish citizen. I am curious to see how the court will react to the new evidence.

    Your other arguments are also flawed. You are describing an ideal world, but the reality is far from ideal. First of all, if I was stealing from my company, my company would have to gather strong evidence before taking me to court. They would probably also talk to me first and try to resolve this internally.

    If the evidence was anything like the Sledgehammer case, it would be a CD-ROM full of e-mail archives from 2003 sent to the CEO by an ‘anonymous ex-office-mate’. The CD-ROM would contain thousands of real e-mail messages. In one folder, named ‘My Fraud’, there would be a number of e-mails describing how I was planning to rip the company off. These e-mails, all dated 2003, would mention co-workers that joined in 2007, excerpts from the companies 2005 fiscal plan, and a piece about how I was jealous of my manager’s 2003 Porsche (even though he bought it in 2006).

    If my company, took me to court with such evidence, and accused me of a ‘planned fraud attempt’ then, in a fair legal system, they would not only lose at the first hearing, I would also sue their ***es off.

    And please do not claim that the government does not defend its ’employees’ in court. You are probably aware that the government officials (i.e. memur) can only be sued in a court of law after an internal investigation, and pending the approval of the governing body. I am not a lawyer, and there are probably exceptions/special cases. However, it is not a secret that the Ministry of Justice consistently prevents/delays investigations against some judges and prosecutors (notably, the Ergenekon case), while instantly approving others (e.g. Ilhan Cihaner). There is even recent proposals by the ruling party to prevent charges being brought against individual government officials. It is claimed that this proposal is in response to the case where the Ergenekon suspect Prof. Haberal sued nine Ergenekon judges and won.

    It is clear that the ruling party wanted these officials to be punished regardless of evidence. And these people are being punished. Without a trial. They are in custody for months, away from their families. Losing their health, promotions, jobs, lives …

    Regarding HSYK, I do not claim to know what they were thinking. It seems that lawyers are also perplexed. For instance see: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/16545560.asp?gid=233 and http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/16545559.asp?gid=233 . There are a lot of questions, inconsistencies and unknowns. The most likely explanation so far is the pressure from the government. It is up to the government to explain this happening, mainly because they practically took complete control of the HSYK.

    Finally, the fact that the court accepted the prosecutor’s appeal does not mean much about the validity of the claims there. It is a known fact that about 50% of the cases in Turkey result in acquittals. This is basically a coin-toss. The question is, how would we repay their losses if these people are acquitted after remaining in custody for years?

    Regards,

    Cevapla

  10. drunkenknight Says:

    Merttalay a cewap vermenin herhangi bir anlamı yok…Einstein ın dediği gibi önyargıyı parçalamak atomu parçalamaktan her zaman daha zor…yapmamız gereken,sayın Dani Rodrik ve Pınar Doğan’ın basit bir şekilde ortaya çıkarmış olduğu gerçekleri, hala kafalarında ergenekon ve balyoz davalarına dair soru işareti bulunan vatandaşlarımıza aktarabilmek,anlatabilmek,onların da doğruyu görebilmelerine yardımcı olabilmek…Merttalay sadece onun önünde durmaya çalışan küçük bir çakıl taşı,ona söyleyebileceğim tek şey,Sayın Çetin Doğan’ın bir tv programında bu iddialarla ilgili olarak söylediği gibi ”Siz gidin ağababalarınız gelsin”….

    Cevapla

  11. DJ Says:

    Mert Atalay, you are nothing but a cheap joke that its time is long gone turned to sour.

    Either come up with credible evidences against Mr. Rodrik’s evidences that show how Fethullah-AKP plot fabricated evidences under a false coup, or disappear once and for all. Or rather stay here as the muppett of the town.

    Cevapla

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