MERVE BÜŞRA ÖZTÜRK

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MERVE BÜŞRA ÖZTÜRK
February 15, 2013, Friday

Error and essence of coup trials

Although the Turkish judiciary has brought to heel the once all-powerful armed forces, which see themselves as guardians of secularism and have regularly intervened in politics and carried out coups in previous decades, initial public support for the coup trials has somewhat dwindled.

Critics and even sympathizers say the cases have spiraled out of control as the years defendants have spent in prison without any conviction has boosted concerns over the chance that the trials are being conducted unfairly. However, while pointing out the problems in the trials such as the long detention periods, columnists warn about the staunch critics of the trials, claiming that their real aim is to cover up the crimes under the cloak of such legal errors.

Star's Mustafa Karaalioğlu says it is true that there are flaws in the coup trials and that many believe that some suspects in these trials are being unfairly treated as it is possible and even preferable to try the majority of suspects without jailing them, he argues. Of course even one single flaw in a trial is an extremely important problem that needs to be fixed and cannot be overlooked. But the aforementioned flaws, Karaalioğlu says, are about the implementation of laws and not about the essence of the trials. Moreover, none of these flaws can change the fact that Turkey has seen four military coups and many other coup attempts in its recent history.” We should not forget that threats of coups cast a shadow over Turkey until very recently and that the media was the number one tool for the coup plotters. Today, the military's hand has been significantly weakened and it will, hopefully, never again dare to stage a coup. But the pro-coup media outlets are still doing their part and trying to tarnish the image of the coup trials by slamming them,” the columnist writes.

Taha Akyol from the Hürriyet daily says errors in law are always possible. For example, some suspects in the Sledgehammer coup trial were given harsh prison sentences even though there was no concrete evidence showing their involvement in the coup plot. The suspects were out of the country at the time of the planning of the coup; yet, the court still ruled against them, saying that even if the suspects were out of the country, they might still have been in contact with the other coup plotters. Akyol argues that court decisions should not be based on “might haves or assumptions; there has to be concrete evidence proving the crime.” Akyol argues that society is currently divided between two political tendencies: One group argues that staging a coup is a huge crime and so suspects have to be jailed while being tried, while the other group claim the coup plots have been made up by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to win the public's sympathy and so all the evidence in the trials is fake and the incarcerations are unfair. However, these arguments have no legal ground and are just what people want to believe. As for the legal explanation, Akyol says, unfortunately there are legal errors that should be corrected right away, but they do not necessarily damage the essence of the coup trials.

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