Civilian court accepts admiral assassination plot indictment

Civilian court accepts admiral assassination plot indictment

Adm. Eşref Uğur Yiğit was promoted to commander of the naval forces after Adm. Metin Ataç.

February 06, 2010, Saturday/ 17:45:00/ NURİ İMRE
The 12th High Criminal Court has accepted an indictment on a plot to assassinate Turkish Naval Forces admirals.

An indictment on a subversive naval forces plot against two admirals claims that a cache of weapons buried in İstanbul's Poyrazköy neighborhood would be used to assassinate the admirals. The first hearing in the trial will be held on May 7, 2010, the court announced.

The indictment was forwarded to the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court in late January. It concerns an ongoing probe into an alleged plot to assassinate admirals at the Naval Forces Command. In July of last year, seven naval lieutenants were arrested on charges of plotting to kill two admirals, Metin Ataç and Eşref Uğur Yiğit.

This is the second time a civilian court has accepted an indictment of military officers detained since a Constitutional Court annulment of a law allowing military officers to be tried in civilian courts. On Jan. 27 the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court ruled to accept an indictment of officers detained in the investigation into the Poyrazköy weapons' cache.

The Constitutional Court in January overturned a reform package approved by President Abdullah Gül last year that allowed civilian courts to try members of the military in peacetime. The Constitutional Court ruled unanimously on the legislation, dubbed by many a “civilian revolution” when it was passed in July 2009.

The law, aimed at meeting EU membership criteria, would for the first time have vested civilian courts with the power to prosecute military personnel accused of crimes against national security, constitutional violations and attempts to topple the government during peacetime. Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), however, challenged the law at the Constitutional Court, which ruled to annul it.

Both rulings indicate that the Constitutional Court ruling will not affect ongoing trials. This is also in line with initial remarks from legal experts that had come right after the annulment. In an earlier comment to Today’s Zaman evaluating the Constitutional Court ruling, Osman Kaşıkçı, the dean of Fatih University’s faculty of law, said: “The annulment of the law does not mean that we have to return to previous regulations. Soldiers will continue to be tried in civilian courts. Members of the military who are being tried in civilian courts cannot be referred for court martial. A new law in line with the Constitutional Court ruling would have to go into effect, but there is no such law.”

According to the indictment, the weapons discovered during police excavations in Poyrazköy would be used by a junta nested within the Naval Forces Command under the leadership of retired Col. Levent Göktaş to assassinate the admirals. The munitions were discovered on land owned by the İstek Foundation in April 2009. They are covered in a separate indictment that demands life sentences for five naval officers and lengthy prison terms for another 11. The officers are accused of “membership in an illegal organization” and “attempting to destroy Parliament and the government.” They are accused of working to foment chaos in the country through violent acts to help overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

However, the court has not merged the Poyrazköy weapons case with the assassination plot targeting the admirals. Whether that case -- where 17 suspects, five of whom in jail, are standing trial -- will eventually be merged with this one will be decided in the first hearing on May 7.

The indictment into the assassination plot accuses 19 suspects, nine of whom are already under arrest. The suspects are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “illegal possession of explosives.”

The new document claims that the officers hoped to use the munitions buried in Poyrazköy in the planned assassination of the two admirals. Among a long list of weapons are hand grenades, light anti-tank weapons (LAWs), rocket launchers, Kalashnikov rifles, assault rifles, thousands of bullets and various other explosives.

The document also recalled a series of planned attacks against individuals included in the Poyrazköy indictment.

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