The delivery of a final verdict in the coup plot case known as Balyoz (Sledgehammer) is indicative of Turkey having entered an advanced stage in terms of democracy. The court has done its best.
It has concluded the case despite all threats, challenges and black propaganda for undermining and discrediting these trials. Recognizing this great success, which shows that nothing will be the same after this point, is important because of some certain challenges that the court has overcome during the trial period:
The first one: There are 360 suspects in the Sledgehammer coup case, and some of them were retired or active duty members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Active duty military officers who assume critical positions and who command tens of thousands of military personnel were tried. The army as a professional bureaucratic organization has come together in solidarity against the case. It was a dreadful situation for court members. During the hearings, the threats coming from the suspects, or some groups lending support to the Sledgehammer coup case suspects, attempted to exert pressure on the court.
The second: The coup plotters tried to derive public support for the Balyoz case. They wanted to increase the pressure that they exert on the court by lending political support. They wanted to use the families of military personnel to manipulate the public’s perception. Moreover, the case has been presented as one representing the secularism versus anti-secularism polarization in Turkey. Thus, the coup plotters have gained political support. A recent public opinion poll shows that 17 percent of Turkish society still finds military coups justifiable. Considering that this 17 percent supports the coup plotters being tried in the Balyoz case is a great example of the challenges that the court has overcome.
The support of the İstanbul Bar Association is a concrete example of this support. The association linked itself to the Balyoz case suspects and waged an ideological war instead of simply defending them in court. The lawyers representing suspects in the Sledgehammer coup plot trial boycotted the court and did not attend the hearings in order to extend the trial period.
The coup supporters wanted to associate the opposition to the case with an opposition to the government. They wanted to give the impression that it is the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) itself who is actually hearing the case.
The military coup attempt in question was made in 2004. The suspects are punished on charges of attempting to render the elected government dysfunctional. In short, the victim of the Balyoz coup plan is the AK Party government that still rules Turkey. If this plan had achieved its ends, the members of the government would have been the people to be arrested and tried. Although the government is the victim of the coup plan, they did not join the case as a co-plaintiff. In order not to contribute to the coup supporters’ strategy to create a political polarization, the government never intervened the case, and did not use its natural right. The debates surrounding the case prove that the attitude of the government was correct.
Retired or active duty military officials are charged and sentenced on a failed attempt to destroy Parliament and overthrow the government through violent acts. According to the plan, in order create a chaotic atmosphere that will pave the way for a military coup, Turkish military aircraft were to provoke Greek pilots by entering Greek airspace and bombs were to be placed in the courtyard of a mosque during the Fridays prayers. The thing that makes the case interesting is that every step concerning the coup plan has been officially recorded. Moreover, then-Chief of General Staff retired Gen. Hilmi Özkök, who testified to an İstanbul court as a witness in early August, admitted that the seminar went beyond its intended purpose and that he had the events investigated. In a nutshell, every detail of the aborted coup attempt has been documented and proven. This is why the final verdict of the court did not come as a surprise to anyone.
For the first time, Turkey tried a coup attempt that resulted in a conclusion. Now, those who want to stage a coup have to consider the risk of being tried. The conclusion of the Balyoz case is the biggest evidence of the fact that a military coup will not be staged in Turkey again. If Turkey can try the coup attempts, no one will dare to stage a coup.