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March 22, 2012, Thursday

Why does Evren still think so?

Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya, the perpetrators of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup who will be tried on April 4, recently made an unprecedented move. Arguing that they are the “founding power,” Evren and Şahinkaya said in the defense they sent to the court:

“It is not an offense under the Constitution to overthrow the government. To try the founding power is an attempt by a coup perpetrator to try another coup perpetrators. The Turkish Penal Code [TCK] does not define ‘being the founding power’ or ‘staging a coup’ as an offense. Only a coup attempt is an offense under the law.”

Were they advised by Sabih Kanadoğlu, who masterminded the “367” nonsense? Whoever their mentors are, hats off to them. Such an analysis is apt to outdo all the legal shams that have ever been pulled. So they say that “it’s not a crime to stage a coup, but it is to attempt to stage one.” This is like saying, “It is not a crime to kill a person, but it is to attempt to kill them.”

This reminded me of something: When lawsuits were launched against Ergenekon and the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plan, some people known for their work as lawyers, journalists and columnists of the system of tutelage defended quite the opposite of what Evren is now suggesting. “People cannot be tried for the coups they did not stage. In some cases, freedom of speech allows people to ask for coups and express their demands freely,” they said. So far, we have witnessed all sorts of efforts to discredit or instill doubts about the cases against coup attempts. They have shamelessly staged every masquerade you can think of. The demands for a coup and preparations for one, which they tried to put under the category of freedom of speech, resorted to violence, provocations and plots to kill certain key media figures to create chaos in the country -- all to intimidate the society, torture people, overthrow the government and close down Parliament.

Ümit Kardaş responded well to this mentality: “A coup attempt is a crime of abstract danger, committed to disrupt the constitutional system and its functioning, and punishable with life imprisonment in solitary confinement. In other words, for the crime to be punished, we don’t wait for it to occur. Freedom of speech does not allow anyone to advocate for crimes committed by coercion or violence. Universal norms of law do not afford protection to such ideas or views which are dangerous or harmful to democracy and human rights and freedoms.”

Why Evren and Şahinkaya still parrot “We are the founding power” is just an expression of a mentality. The country is not at the stage of trying a coup attempt, and this is of course an important development for the sake of democratization. Yet the more important step is to abolish the coup mentality altogether. It is sad but true as there are still many people in the country who would celebrate cheerfully any coup in their papers and TV channels as well as in the streets.

Let me count them now: Evren, who believes that he is the founding power, former Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner, who confessed, “We stepped outside the legal sphere and made it our habit and thought that this would go on like this,” former National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General Tuncer Kılınç, who said a few days ago that “Feb. 28 hasn’t finished yet as we are just on standby,” and the retired general who was planning to issue dollar banknotes to save the economy. This choir sings the same song: We are the real power.

Remember: When the former chief of General Staff spoke to journalists after the court decided to arrest him, he showed no sign of remorse in the face of charges of attempting to overthrow the government and establishing and leading a terrorist organization. He showed no reaction to these accusations. Why? Because he represents the mentality that does not see overthrowing the government as an offense. If you overthrow the government once every 10 years and if you keep Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Internal Service Code, which justifies staging a coup in order to protect the republic, then why should you be ashamed of being charged with attempting to stage a coup?

Mr. Evren thinks he is still the founding power because there are generals, journalists, columnists, judges, bar associations, academics and businessmen who encourage him to do so. Accordingly, what we need is a mentality change. We must get rid of the mentality that does not tolerate diversity as it tends to “otherify” people and denigrate and torment the people who are not like it.

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