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February 15, 2013, Friday

Is the prime minister being political or sincere?

Comments made about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to retired Gen. Ergin Saygun, who was sentenced to prison at the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plan, after he had a medical operation can be grouped into two main categories. Firstly, some people argue that Erdoğan visited him purely with political motivations and without any humane considerations.

Secondly, the prime minister changed his position about the people who are on trial for coup charges and he is planning to pardon them as he intends to garner more extensive support for himself for the presidential candidacy.

There are, of course, merits for the arguments of both groups. However, I would like to maintain my positive attitude toward him. If I am wrong, I won't lose anything, but the one who has led me into error will lose...

Let me start with the first group. The prime minister says it was a visit made with humane considerations. "He was a colleague of mine. We worked together. There were certain connections between the two of us," he says. I believe his words. However, is there any political aspect to his visit? Yes, there is. Erdoğan is a politician. We can find political aspects in any of his moves or behaviors. But we must be fair at the same time. Can't he act sincerely and freely even though people may say, “He did this with political considerations in mind”? For instance, the prime minister can pay visits to the houses of poor people without prior notice during the holy month of Ramadan. Is he being political or sincere then? In my opinion, he is sincere.

This is the way he acts since he was a young man. He is not the kind of person who would stay away from poor people in the past and only start interacting with them after he became prime minister. If he had been an elitist person who had always lived in refined circles and who had not mingled with the general public or a politician who had never visited the poor during the holy month of Ramadan, then it would be reasonable to ask, "Is he being sincere or political?" As we cannot possibly know his inner feelings, we must accept the fact that people may change. So we must assume that the prime minister's visit is a humane move.

Some argue that this visit can be perceived as exerting pressures on prosecutors and judges. Looking at the recently launched waves of police operations in the investigation into the post-modern coup of Feb. 28, 1997 -- when the Turkish military forced the coalition government led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP) out of power, citing alleged rising religious fundamentalism in the country -- we can say that this is not the case. I never thought the prime minister withdrew or weakened the political support he throws behind the judicial investigations and processes against coups. Such a move would mean self-denial to him. Indeed, Erdoğan said, concerning the latest police operations under the Feb. 28 investigation: "The judiciary is performing its duties. Both the judiciary and security forces are fulfilling their duties. Everything is expected anytime. We don't want certain bad experiences from our past to be repeated."

Here, I have a word for the pro-tutelage circles and friends of Ergenekon -- a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government. You were being too vocal in calling the government to not nurture revengeful sentiments. Erdoğan made a humane gesture to you, but you seem to have forgotten about your call and started to swagger, saying, "You have come to accept our position."

As for the second matter, i.e. pardon, I must ask: "If some people should be pardoned so that the future generation can live in peace and harmony and bloodshed can be stopped, is it logical to oppose that pardon?" If the people to be pardoned did not kill or order the murder of anyone and if the civilian government would wield the total control of the country, is there anything wrong with a pardon? During the conquest of Mecca, our prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, forgave the people whom we would never forgive. He pardoned those who tortured him as well as the believers and those who killed his uncle, Hamza.

"The law of retaliation is a cruel rule," says Bediüzzaman Said Nursî. A pardon can be brought to the agenda by securing a sound legal basis for it and introducing constitutional guarantees.

Finally, the army is the institution most revered by this nation. We must refrain from undermining the army's prestige while trying to remove the bad apples from it. The junta member should not be confused with the members of the army.

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