Turkish military officers sentenced for plotting coup

Türkiye Materials 21 September 2012 20:46 (UTC +04:00)
Three retired generals were sentenced to 20 years each in jail by a Turkish court Friday for being part of a planned coup against the government, national media reported, reported dpa.
Turkish military officers sentenced for plotting coup
Three former Turkish generals, who were key suspects in the Sledgehammer coup trial, have been sentenced to 20 years in prison on coup charges, a ruling that is expected to help curtail the Turkish military's hold on politics, Today's Zaman reported.

Former 1st Army Commander retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, former Air Forces Commander Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına and former Naval Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek were initially given life imprisonment but the court said the three would only serve 20-year prison sentences because they were unsuccessful in their bid to topple the government. It acquitted 34 officers in the case, which has underlined civilian dominance over the once all-powerful military in Turkey.

Retired Gen. Engin Alan, War Academies Commander Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, retired Gen. Ergin Saygun, former National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General Şükrü Sarıışık, retired Gen. Nejat Bek, retired Adm. Ahmet Feyyaz Öğütçü and retired Gen. Süha Tanyeri were also each sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Prosecutors had demanded 15-20 year jail sentences for the 365 defendants, 364 of them serving and retired officers.

The court issued 16 year jail sentences for 214 suspects, including the retired Col. Dursun Çiçek and retired military judge Ahmet Zeki Üçok, in the historic coup trial.

Çiçek was arrested on charges of preparing the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism, which sought to undermine the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the religion-based Gülen movement.

Among the 365 suspects, 250 behind bars and the rest pending trial outside of custody. The verdict session was the 108th hearing in the trial.

Suspects entered the courtroom to the applause of viewers, who sang various military anthems as the suspects, most of whom are of military background, walked in.

Four defendants delivered their final statements on the last day. The court adjourned before announcing the verdict.

The first time the Sledgehammer plot was publicly discussed was on Jan. 20, 2010, when the Taraf daily claimed that a group of generals had conspired to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, devising a plot titled the Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan. The daily claimed that among the plans of the generals was bombing the Fatih Mosque, one of İstanbul's biggest, during a busy Friday prayer and other atrocities to shake public confidence in the government. The plot was devised in 2003, according to the paper.

The first evidence against the suspects emerged in January 2010, when an anonymous tipster delivered a suitcase to journalist Mehmet Baransu. The suitcase contained various materials, including documents not related to the investigation. Three CDs -- which formed the backbone of the prosecution's argument -- in the suitcase were the subject of the Sledgehammer investigation. The journalist shared the documents with the prosecutors shortly after obtaining them. The CDs contain documents that mention Sledgehammer and related activities such as operational plans (subplots the generals called Oraj, Suga, Çarşaf, Sakal), a list of civil society organizations that would be closed once the generals were in power, blacklists of individuals from various institutions, journalists to be arrested, vehicles, hospitals and pharmacies to be taken over and personnel assignments. Later, the documents found at Gölcük were added to the pile of evidence against the suspects.