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May 03, 2012, Thursday

A Silivri trap for the AK Party?

I believe the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is being led into a trap using eight deputies in jail -- two from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), one from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and five from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Coup attempts are being tried in the cases against Ergenekon, a clandestine organization nested within the state and trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government, and the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup plan.

An overall look at these ongoing cases in addition to the anti-government Internet campaign spearheaded by the military, the coup of Sept. 12, 1980 and the postmodern coup of Feb. 28, 1997 will reveal Turkey’s problematic transition from military tutelage to democracy. Defeating a century-old status quo, a mentality that permeated to the core of all power centers, is no easy task. When the supporters of democratization slacken for a moment in this struggle, the tutelage mentality will make a comeback with all of its ruthlessness and vengeful feelings.

Let me remind you of yesterday’s development. The 92nd hearing of the Sledgehammer case -- in which 365 defendants, including retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, retired Adm. Özden Örnek and retired Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına, are being tried -- was held. The presiding judge stated that the İstanbul Bar Association did not send lawyers as was requested and instead urged the court to be objective in its interim decisions and it even threatened the court. People with a tutelage mentality are resisting fundamental changes. They don’t want to lose the power, facilities and positions they have been enjoying for centuries. The members of the junta continue to employ tactics of psychological warfare. These tactics are currently aiming to undermine, discredit and befog the ongoing trials. The arguments that use such fabricated concepts as “civilian tutelage” or claim that ongoing trials are “actually targeting the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]” or that so many commanders are being tried that “the army ran out of commanders” or that “even veteran military officers are being arrested” or that “it is a shame for a democratic system to keep deputies in prison” should all be analyzed as part of this psychological warfare. Indeed, the indictments from the ongoing trials contain evidence that the junta members issued orders for implementing such a campaign. These documents clearly specify how to make use of the media networks and which tactics should be used. They are just waiting for the popular will that said “Yes” in the referendum held on Sept. 12, 2010 to slacken and grow exhausted…

The matter of the deputies jailed in Silivri Prison should be discussed with care. When the CHP, the MHP and the BDP nominated people who were already in prison at that time, they knew that the court may choose not to release them under the relevant articles of the Constitution. Even speaking on TV on June 3, 2011, i.e., nine days before the elections, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said: “It is true that the court may not release them. This Sabih Kanadoğlu stated previously. In the end, it is up to the discretion of the courts.” In other words, even Kanadoğlu, the mastermind behind the infamous ‘367’ scandal, has clearly argued that immunity cannot be granted under Articles 14 and 83 of the Constitution, which regulate parliamentary immunity, as is the case with the Ergenekon trial. “The jailed defendants of the Ergenekon case cannot be released for acquiring parliamentary immunity through election. Such a justification cannot be used for them,” he said.

The AK Party must assess this matter both from the legal and political aspect and with diligence. The AK Party is the political will behind the 58 percent “yes” votes coming out of the 2010 referendum and the cases against the coups. If it changes its position, the AK Party will lose everything. It will be perceived as the party that allowed certain people to be saved from litigation. And such a move will also mean openly pressuring the judiciary. It will mean acting as a facilitator of the efforts to undermine ongoing trials. Moreover, the five BDP deputies in question are being tried for membership in a terrorist organization. Any psychological climate that weakens counterterrorism efforts will cause more damage than expected. The CHP, the MHP and the BDP knew what they were doing ahead of the elections. They actively played roles in helping the efforts to undermine the coup trials. Those who challenged the judiciary and legal system in the past cannot consistently talk about a disgrace of democracy today. As they made their bed, so they must lie in it.

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