Landmark Ergenekon trial marks 100th session today

June 11, 2009, Thursday/ 17:15:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
The 100th hearing of the Ergenekon trial, where 88 suspects including political party leaders, former army officers and university rectors stand accused of membership in a clandestine organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government, is being held today.

With today's trial, the court will have completed 100 sessions in seven-and-a-half months since the trial began in October of last year. Given how things normally progress move in Turkey's higher criminal courts -- on average four hearings are held annually per trial -- the Ergenekon trial has, in relative terms, managed to complete 25 years worth of trial sessions in less than eight months.

The first session of the Ergenekon trial being heard by the İstanbul 13th Higher Criminal Court at a courthouse inside Silivri Prison was heard on Oct. 20, 2008.

On the first day, the trial descended into disarray as the 60 lawyers, 88 suspects and 79 observers could not fit into the tiny courtroom. The presiding judge ordered everyone except the suspects out of the courtroom, as protesters piled in and lawyers complained of intolerable conditions. The room was later expanded. In the second session, the court accepted the motion of the Cumhuriyet Foundation and the Yeni Gün news agency to be co-plaintiffs in the case.

Establishing the identities of the suspects when the case was first opened took up the first few days of the trial. The reading of the massive indictment was completed at the trial's 11th hearing.

The suspects began delivering their defense statements at the 12th hearing. The first person to testify was Oktay Yıldırım, followed by suspects Ali Yiğit and Muzaffer Tekin. Retired Gen. Veli Küçük, one of the prime suspects in the case, delivered his defense testimony on Dec. 15, 2008 in the 26th hearing. Workers' Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek, who began testifying on Jan. 22, 2009 at the 40th trial, completed his statement in a total of 18.5 hours and four sessions later.

The longest defense statement, however, came on March 31, 2009 in the 67th hearing from lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz. His testimony was delivered over the course of 60 days and 12 hearings. By the 94th hearing, almost all suspects had presented their defense statements, with the exception of suspects released earlier pending trial: İlhan Selçuk, Ferit İlsever and Fuat Turgut.

Fifteen people were released by the court in the course of the first 99 sessions. In addition to these, four others, including retired Gen. Şener Eruygur, were released for reasons of health.

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