Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently visited retired Gen. Ergin Saygun, who was previously convicted in the Sledgehammer trial in which the defendants were accused of trying to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, at a hospital in İstanbul where the retired general underwent heart surgery last week.
Saygun was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the planned coup. Erdoğan's visit has created a stir as until recently, he was strongly outspoken against coup plotters and individuals being tried in related cases. However, in his recent televised remarks, in a sharp turn from his previous stance, Erdoğan questioned why so many generals were in prison, complaining that there would be no generals to run the military if a war broke out. While some claim that Erdoğan is taking a step back in his support of coup trials, most of the columnists disagree, saying Erdoğan's visit to Saygun is no more than compassion towards a sick man regardless of Saygun's crimes.
Star's Mustafa Karaalioğlu describe Erdoğan's visit as one that was based on compassion. One cannot state from his visit that Erdoğan has given up his support of trials concerning coups. After all, the prime minister has been the number one target of coup attempts since he came to power, and if the pro-coup mentality is not defeated or the trials dealing with coups are obstructed, he will be the first to be toppled. That's why it is insane to claim that Erdoğan is now against coup trials, the columnist says.
Yeni Şafak's Yasin Aktay agrees with Karaalioğlu, saying that interpreting Erdoğan's visit as a step back from coup trials would completely ignore the prime minister's policy and stance on them altogether. “As I wrote a number of times before, the AK Party is assertive about its principle of ‘justice' as well as its goal of ‘development' as mentioned in its name. And justice is a value that is contradictory to feelings of revenge. Erdoğan cannot be so vengeful as to ignore the condition of a sick man. This is one aspect of the issue. As for the second, Turkey has changed a lot from the times when people could openly speak about their pro-coup stance. In this sense, Turkey has become exceedingly normalized in recent years. So we should get used to such gestures embracing all segments of society. If our motivation for the ongoing coup trials is not ‘revenge' but about restoring justice, then we need to be assured that no coup perpetrator or those attempting a coup will be able to get away with what they have done but also at the same time, that everyone deserves to be tried fairly,” the columnist says.
On the other hand, some columnists like Taraf's Mehmet Baransu argue that Erdoğan is simply changing his stance from time to time as part of a plan to win the votes of all sides of society. “He is putting on a new shirt when the one he wears gets dirty. This is what is happening,” he writes.