On September 21 a court in Istanbul has sentenced three retired generals to life imprisonment in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer), then reduced the sentence to 20 years. Air Force Cmdr. retired Gen. İbrahim Fırtına, retired 1st Army Cmdr. Gen. Çetin Doğan and retired Navy Cmdr. Adm. Özden Örnek were convicted to life on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force,” but the terms were later reduced to 20 years because the attempt to stage a coup was “incomplete”. 331 of the 365 suspects were sentenced to prison terms, while 34 were acquitted. People in the courtroom chanted support for the officers, “We are proud of you!”. (Click here for details of the case.)
Here is Dani Rodrik’s essay on the Sledgehammer trial, written for the opinion page of the Washington Post (click here for the rest):
Turkey’s courts have been working overtime to throw government opponents of all political stripes behind bars. Since 2007, the government has run a series of trials against an alleged ultra-nationalist terrorist organization called Ergenekon, charging lawyers, politicians, academics, journalists and military officers with plotting to overthrow the government. In separate cases, thousands of Kurdish politicians and activists are on trial — nearly 1,000 among them detained — for alleged links with terrorist activities. Turkey holds more journalists in jail than China and Iran combined.
In terms of sheer drama, few match the Sledgehammer case. In a trial that began in 2010, 365 serving and retired high-ranking military officials — including my father-in-law, Çetin Dogan — and two civilians are charged with planning the coup. Prosecutors allege that the plotters planned to bomb mosques, down a Turkish fighter jet in a false-flag operation, take over hospitals and pharmacies, close nongovernmental organizations, arrest journalists and politicians, and ultimately appoint a handpicked cabinet.
Yet the “incriminating documents” the court relied on to issue Thursday’s verdict were forged and have been used to frame the defendants. American, German and Turkishforensic analysts hired by the defense have independently confirmed the forgery….
In addition, many defendants have proved that they were outside Turkey or hundreds of miles away from work at the time they are alleged to have prepared these documents or attended coup-planning meetings. The documents also contain countless anachronisms, such as names of organizations and places that didn’t yet exist in 2003 or were changed after that time.
All this evidence leaves room for only one conclusion: The alleged coup plot is fabricated.
This conclusion has long been obvious to the Turkish military. In response to the mass arrest of their colleagues, the chief of Turkey’s armed forces and the heads of Turkey’s army, navy and air force resigned together on one symbolic day last summer. The case is widely seen as the means by which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decapitated the military, a powerful institution that has long opposed Islamist forces in Turkish society…
Most alarming is the Turkish court’s evident complicity with the forgery…