The case of gendarmerie Maj. Gen. Halil Helvacıoğlu, Rear Adm. Abdullah Gavremoğlu and Maj. Gen. Gürbüz Kaya has turned into a Gordian knot since August 2010, when the government opposed their promotion because of their suspected contribution to a military plot dubbed Sledgehammer. The three were to be promoted during the YAŞ meeting, but the prime minister, defense minister and president refused to approve their promotion.
In September of the same year, the three commanders appealed the government's move to AYİM, and the military court issued a stay of the decision, which prevented the three officers from receiving a promotion. In response, the government invoked the authority granted it by Article 65 of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Internal Service Law and suspended the three officers.
The article gives the defense minister the right to suspend naval, air and land forces officers who are on trial. The article also authorizes the interior minister to suspend gendarmerie officers since the Gendarmerie General Command is under the Interior Ministry.
The court announced its final verdict in December 2010 and insisted on promoting the three generals. Also in the same month, AYİM rejected appeals filed by the three high-ranking commanders against earlier decisions by two ministers to suspend them and said there was nothing illegal in the suspension decisions in its reasoned decision.
The high military court heard a case filed by the three commanders against the Prime Ministry on the grounds that the 2010 AYİM decision to promote them was not implemented. The court ordered the Prime Ministry to pay TL 40,000 in compensation for non-pecuniary damages to each of the commanders.
The three commanders are among the dozens of suspects who are mentioned in an indictment concerning the Sledgehammer coup plan, a subversive plot allegedly prepared by a group inside the military that included plans to shoot down Turkish jets and bomb large mosques during prayer time in an attempt to undermine the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) with the hope of eventually toppling the government.
The ruling is likely to open up the legitimacy of the military court to debate again since many jurists see this as an open violation of the law. A constitutional reform package approved in a referendum held on Sept. 12, 2010 rendered YAŞ decisions concerning promotions of military officers open to judicial review, which also shows that the recent AYİM decision is illegal. The government is known to be planning to merge AYİM with the Council of State.