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September 25, 2012, Tuesday

Theater of Balyoz trial

The Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup trial, which was concluded on Friday, handing down 20-year prison sentences to three retired generals who were key suspects in the case.

The court’s ruling included jail sentences for 250 suspects, drawing criticism from those who stood trial, their families and those who claim the trial was “politically motivated.”

Star’s Sedat Laçiner says the trial is now concluded but the play is not yet over. The suspects, who threatened the judges and prosecutors during the trial, are now carrying out a campaign to discredit the court with the support of the media. The suspects and those who were claiming that the evidence in the case was all false and fabricated and were not taking the court seriously, continue to view the ruling as overly harsh and unfair. The same old theatrical play is going on, Laçiner writes. He further says that punishment under the law has three aims: to punish the criminal, to deter others from committing the same crime and to make the criminal repent and change his ways. Laçiner believes that the ruling has achieved the first two aims but doubts that the suspects who are being punished will ever regret their crimes and abandon their pro-coup mentality.

Taraf’s Ahmet Altan says it is the first time in this country that coup stagers have been convicted on coup charges by a civilian court. But we see no joyful atmosphere, he notes. In fact, everyone knows that the evidence and documents in the Sledgehammer case are real. So why are we in a state of worry in light of such a victory? Altan suggests it is because we all know that although the coup stagers have been jailed, there is no democratic order replacing the military tutelage in the country. The only thing that has changed, when compared to the past, is that civilians have taken control of a skewed system which still has traces of a military tutelage. This is creating the worried and doubtful atmosphere which we are currently in.

Radikal’s Cengiz Çandar says the political and legal debates over the court ruling and the emotional dimension of the issue are currently interlaced. Drawing a parallel between the Nuremberg trials, a series of military tribunals which prosecuted prominent members of Nazi Germany, Çandar argues that the aims of deterrence and teaching a lesson to others planning to commit the same crime is on the front burner rather than merely seeking justice. And that’s why the differences between those people giving orders and those taking orders in the Sledgehammer coup plot was ignored and everyone received almost equally heavy punishments.

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