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The struggle for Turkey

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  • #46
    Originally posted by voltaire View Post
    Secular, democratic states are a good thing. I'm glad Gul doesn't want to turn Turkey into a theocracy - it would destroy the country. He also understands (unlike the army and CHP apparently) that it's perfectly possible within secular systems to be openly religious but to reject theocratic government. In that sense, it never really was about "secular versus religious" in the way that was portrayed in much of the western press.

    I agree... but I think the best form of government is the Islamic one. But seeing that there are no more good, strong Muslims left on the planet - that'll never happen. The sad, pathetic imitation is Saudi Arabia - al Islamic al .


    • #47

      ISTANBUL, March 14, 2008: Turkey's secular establishment aimed a desperate blow at the governing party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, when a senior prosecutor filed a legal case to close the party.

      The lawsuit, filed with the Constitutional Court, the highest in the country, seeks closure because of what it said were anti-secular activities of the party. The prosecutor who filed the case, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, also asked for 71 party members, including Erdogan, to be banned from politics for five years.

      The party, Justice and Development, or AK, as it is known in Turkish, "has become the hub of activities against secularism," the state-run Anatolian News Agency quoted the lawsuit as saying.

      In a hastily convened press conference Friday night, a senior official from Erdogan's party, Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, said that "the target of this case is not the AK Party, but Turkish democracy and Turkish people."

      "This is the worst injustice against our country's grand interests, peace and stability as well as its reputation in the world," he said on television.

      While it is unlikely that the party will be closed - it was elected in a landslide vote of nearly 47 percent in national elections in July - many expressed surprise that the legal proceedings, which began in January, had gotten this far. Erdogan irritated the secular establishment in Turkey by lifting a ban on head scarves in universities last month, a move that drew scathing criticism from Yalcinkaya.

      The case, if accepted by the Constitutional Court, puts the secular establishment in Turkey on a collision course with Erdogan and his party, whose senior members are observant Muslims. The establishment is using the court system, the only part of the state it still controls, as a weapon against Erdogan's party, which now occupies the posts of president, prime minister and the Parliament. "We are calling on our nation with full determination - stay content, for we, as AKP, will hold onto the power of representation that you granted to us at ballot boxes," Firat said.

      The secular establishment has closed political parties in the past as a way to steer the country's democracy. In 1998, it closed proceedings against the Welfare Party, an openly Islamist party whose members included Erdogan and his close ally, Abdullah Gul, who is now president. It also closed Kurdish parties.

      But Erdogan's party, which says it is secular and has turned away from its earlier involvement in political Islam, is highly popular among Turks, and a closure would have very serious consequences for Turkish democracy.

      "One has to consider what such demands on the governing party with such a large majority in Parliament would bring and take from Turkey," said Gul, speaking at an Islamic conference in Senegal, according to Anatolian.

      But the party had ruffled feathers - pressing its choice of Gul as president, appointing its ally to run the Higher Education Council, and pushing the head scarf issue - and reaction seemed inevitable.


      • #48


        • #49

          ISTANBUL, Turkey, March 31, 2008 (AP) - Turkey's top court voted unanimously Monday to hear a case for banning the Islamic-rooted ruling party, a decision that could lead to months of political uncertainty in a nation divided over the role of Islam in society.

          The decision by the Constitutional Court highlighted the power struggle between the secular establishment and allies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pious Muslims who have advocated Western-style reforms as part of Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

          The decision also tests the institutions of a democracy with an authoritarian legacy, and has deepened concerns that the political rift is hurting an economy that emerged from chaos in 2001 to become a magnet for foreign investment.

          The government vowed to push ahead with EU reforms, but the governing Justice and Development Party is likely to devote much of its time to the legal fight for survival.

          The party, which led has Turkey since 2002, has broad popular support, winning re-election eight months ago with 47 percent of the vote.

          ''It is an embarrassment for Turkish democracy to see this case opened,'' said Suat Kiniklioglu, a ruling party lawmaker and spokesman for Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. ''Unfortunately, we will spend most of our energy on this.''

          The 11-member court is expected to take much of 2008 to decide on the case brought by Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, the chief prosecutor of the High Court of Appeals. In a 162-page document, he accused the ruling party of trying to scrap secular principles enshrined in the constitution.

          Yalcinkaya cited the government's efforts to lift a ban on wearing Islamic head scarves in universities, attempts to roll back restrictions on religious education and allegedly anti-secular comments by ruling party officials.

          The prosecutor asked the court to bar 71 people, including Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, from politics for five years. If Gul is banned from politics, he could remain as president because the post is meant to be apolitical, despite perceptions that his staunchly secular predecessor, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, vigorously sought to undercut the government with his veto power.

          The court's decision to hear the case amounts to a victory for the ideological heirs of Turkish national founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who occupy posts in the military, judiciary and bureaucracy and see themselves as defenders of the secular order against forces that seek to impose Islam on society.

          Eight of the 11 members of the top court were appointed by Sezer.

          Erdogan represents a newly empowered class of Muslims who say their piety is compatible with a commitment to the secularism espoused by Ataturk. They say their opponents seek to preserve privileges by curtailing religious freedoms and other democratic rights.

          ''We should not forget something, which is that there can be differences in our lifestyles, ethnic roots, beliefs and sects,'' Erdogan said in a televised address that was apparently recorded before the court ruling and shown after it. ''These differences is richness which make us stronger rather than weaker.''

          If the Justice and Development Party is shut down, its members could regroup under the banner of a new party to lead the government. However, a ban on the party could slow or derail government policies, including free speech legislation and other reforms linked to Turkey's EU bid.

          The European Commission called the legal maneuvering in Turkey as excessive.

          ''I do not see any such justification for this case,'' EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said. In the EU, he said, ''the kind of political issues referred to in this case are debated in the parliament and decided through the ballot box, not in courtrooms.''

          Senior ruling party lawmaker Nihat Ergun told Turkey's NTV television that the party would seek a constitutional change to make it harder to disband political parties, a strategy that could trigger protracted wrangling in Parliament.


          • #50


            • #51

              June 11, 2008 -- Turkey's embattled prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, launched an attempt to save his political skin yesterday by seeking to lower tensions in a power struggle with the state's secular establishment that threatens to split the country, close his party and oust him from office.

              After days of simmering government anger, Erdogan pleaded with his supporters and Turkey's most senior judges to avoid a "clash of powers" following a ruling that overturned a law allowing female university students to wear the Islamic headscarf.

              "Everyone should refrain from actions that make the rule of law, absolute supremacy of the constitution and our constitutional institutions matters of discussion," he said in a televised address to parliament in the capital, Ankara. "No one should try to benefit from such attempts. We have to take Turkey out of such a 'clash of powers' environment."

              His tone was markedly more conciliatory than that of other government figures and appeared calculated to avoid antagonising the constitutional court before it hears a separate case calling for the ruling justice and development party (AKP) to be shut down, and Erdogan and 70 other leading figures to be banned from politics for five years for alleged anti-secularism.

              Some AKP members had taken a much harder line after the court last Thursday ruled that the headscarf was a symbol of political Islam that threatened Turkey's secular system established under Atatürk. Many MPs accused it of usurping the government's powers and demanded parliamentary action to annul the ruling. But Erodgan merely called on the court to explain its actions.

              "Legislative powers belong only to the elected parliament. No one has the right to put itself in the place of the legislative," he said.

              Last week's ruling, which prompted the government to hold six hours of emergency talks, has led many to conclude that Erdogan is doomed when the court delivers its verdict in the party closure case, which is expected in the autumn. The case is based on a 162-page indictment compiled by the chief prosecutor. It cites the headscarf law, a host of Erdogan's statements and AKP actions at local government level, including bans on alcohol sales.

              Some analysts depicted yesterday's remarks as a last-ditch effort by the prime minister to placate his enemies in the judiciary and armed forces, the ultimate arbiters of Turkish political power.

              "Erdogan is trying to save his skin but it's too late," said Cengiz Aktar, a professor on EU affairs at Istanbul's Bahçesehir University. "The guy has been yielding to the demands of the establishment for weeks but they don't want to listen any more. He is considered an outsider and there are a lot of personal animosities. Many people in the old establishment simply hate him - they think he represents a sort of Antichrist.

              "Even if he does survive, what then? This country's constitution was not designed for reform but to protect the state against its citizens. The era of reform is over."

              Soli Ozel, an analyst at Bilgi University, said Erdogan was trying to prevent possible military intervention: "The whole aim of the closure case is to get Erdogan's head. But further polarisation doesn't suit the AKP's interests. It's much better to form a new party than be more confrontational and bring about a final clash - the ultimate form of which would be a military takeover."

              The long-standing headscarf ban was passed by parliament in February to much acclaim from religious conservatives, who saw it as ending unfair discrimination, but it was greeted with dismay and protests from secularists.

              The AKP, which has roots in political Islam but draws support from across the middle class, championed the reform on grounds of religious freedom and insisted that it posed no threat to secularism.

              Analysts expect the AKP, which won an emphatic majority at last year's general election, to re-form under a different name if it is closed down. Some say the party's parliamentary majority would allow the new party to continue in office without Erdogan and the other figures subject to a possible ban.


              • #52

                July 4, 2008 -- Turkey's governing party mounted a desperate legal fight for its survival yesterday as documents allegedly showed it had been the target of a foiled coup attempt planned to begin next week. Facing prosecution demands that it be closed and its leaders banished from politics, the Justice and Development party (AKP) denied accusations that it was seeking to impose sharia law.

                The deputy prime minister, Cemil Cicek, a former lawyer, told the constitutional court that the charges were a politically motivated drive by the country's secular establishment to unseat a twice-elected popular government.

                He was presenting the government's case two days after the chief prosecutor, Aburrahman Yalcinkaya, told the court that there was a "real and present danger" of an Islamic state emerging under the AKP, which is rooted in political Islam but has a bedrock of broad middle-class support.

                Yalcinkaya is seeking to ban 71 of the party's senior figures from politics for five years - including the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President Abdullah Gül - on the grounds that they want to dismantle the secular reforms introduced by the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In its response, the AKP argued that it was trying to further Ataturk's modernising agenda with economic development, expanded human rights and EU membership.

                The court is not expected to deliver a verdict until next month at the earliest. If it votes for the ruling party's closure, as is widely anticipated, it could herald an early general election which a new party formed from the ashes of the AKP would probably contest.

                Yesterday's legal arguments came as prosecutors said they were ready to press terrorism charges after compiling a 2,500-page indictment in a separate case in which the AKP has accused a militant secularist cabal, Ergenekon, of seeking its violent overthrow. Investigators this week arrested 21 people suspected of being linked to the alleged plot, including two retired generals, a journalist and the head of Ankara's chamber of commerce.

                The suspects allegedly planned to provoke a military intervention with a series of explosions and assassinations of prominent figures, including judges and the Nobel prizewinning novelist Orhan Pamuk. The pro-AKP newspaper Sabah reported yesterday that documents uncovered by investigators showed that 40 unauthorised anti-government rallies had been scheduled for next Monday as the prelude to a chain of disruptive events and violent confrontations.

                Sixty people have been arrested since the inquiry began last year. Many belong to the Kemalist Thought Association, a group swearing loyalty to Atatürk.


                • #53

                  July 6, 2008 -- In a recent declaration, Turkish nationalists identified what they described as the 'six arrows' of the country's proper identity: nationalism, secularism, statism, republicanism, populism and revolutionism. Judging by the events of last week, it is the last arrow - revolution - that has preoccupied the more radical in recent months.

                  In an extraordinary raid which led to the arrests of 21 people allegedly tied to Ergenekon, a shadowy nationalist grouping, police uncovered documents that revealed plans for a sustained campaign of terror and intimidation against the Islamist government due to begin this week. A perfect storm of disruption was to be whipped up, beginning with a groundswell of popular protest, followed by a wave of assassinations and bombings, culminating in an economic crisis and army coup. Turkey's moderate Islamist government would be ousted in favour of a right-wing secular dictatorship. The documents appeared to identify a 30-member assassination squad targeting judges and other prominent figures.

                  The episode is only the latest trauma to convulse the Turkish body politic. As the raids took place, the AKP government, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, was defending itself in court from accusations that it is trying to transform Turkey into a hardline Islamic state. If the AKP fails to convince the judges, 71 leading figures in the party, including Erdogan and Gul, risk being banned from politics for five years. Increasingly, Turkish democracy appears vulnerable to a vicious power struggle between a secular establishment and the affluent but religiously conservative middle class.

                  According to Professor Soli Ozel, of Istanbul's Bilgi University, the more fanatical nationalists are determined to bring down the AKP, which despite its Islamist origins is pro-Western and pro-EU. 'They are trying to pump up a modern urban Turkish nationalism with a racist tinge,' said Ozel. 'They are anti-Western and want to ally Turkey with Russia, China and even Iran. It's very schizophrenic and full of paradoxes.'

                  The Ergenekon group is named after a legendary mountain in Asia where the ancient Turks are said to have taken refuge from the Mongols. Those arrested in dawn raids in Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and Trabzon included two recently retired army generals, Sener Eruygur and Hursit Tolon. Eruygur, a former head of the paramilitary gendarmerie for internal security, is chairman of the Kemalist Thought Association, a group dedicated to Ataturk's ideals of modernism, which include subjugating religion to the state. He is believed to have played a central role in two previous failed coup attempts against the AKP, which was re-elected in a landslide last July. Nationalist lawyers, prominent secular journalists, far-right politicians and even a mafia boss have also been detained.

                  The inquiry began after a cache of hand grenades was found in an Istanbul slum in June last year. Investigators claim to have since uncovered evidence of a motley coalition of secular nationalists colluding in a catalogue of past atrocities, including bomb attacks, a grenade attack on a newspaper and the murder last year of a Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink. The alleged aim was to destabilise the AKP government by creating a climate of chaos.

                  Critics were quick to question the authenticity of the documents and accuse the AKP of instigating a witchhunt against its opponents, using its friends in the police. Nevertheless the detention of two former senior army commanders carried huge symbolic weight in a country where the military has always played the decisive political role since Ataturk established the modern Turkish state in 1923.

                  So, too, did the timing. The arrests came hours before the chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, appeared before the constitutional court in Ankara to argue that the AKP should be closed for allegedly undermining Turkey's secular system. The case against the AKP is contained in a 162-page indictment accusing the AKP of trying to create an Islamic state, a charge it denies.

                  Given the conspiratorial game that Turkish politics has become, cynics are suggesting that the Ergenekon case will be used as a bargaining counter to ensure the survival of the AKP.

                  The constitutional court had been widely expected to close the party when it delivers its verdict, probably next month. But with prosecutors saying they are ready to press terrorism-related charges against up to 60 suspects in the Ergenekon case, some suspect a deal has already been struck with moderate army commanders to try to avoid closure.

                  Eruygur's arrest inside a military residential compound may provide a clue, since many believe it could not have happened without army top brass approval. Erdogan recently met General Ilker Basbug, due to take over soon as head of the army. Basbug appealed for calm after last week's arrests, but avoided condemning them. 'We all have to be acting with more common sense, more carefully and more responsibly,' he said.

                  'The arrests were a pretty coup for the AKP,' said Professor Ozel. 'Many people think this couldn't have happened without the tacit approval of the military, at least from the legalists within it. If there is a tacit agreement with the military and they are working with the Prime Minister, you can expect that the court has decided that the AKP is not such a big threat after all.'

                  Whatever the outcome of the forthcoming battle of wills between Turkey's nationalists and Islamists, the latest tremors in Turkey's political landscape have revealed the enduring shadow of the country's 'deep state'. Secretive nationalist elements in the security apparatus are believed to have been behind a host of atrocities against the Kurds and other minorities, including the Alevis, a heterodox Islamic sect, during the 1990s. But, according to Ozel, if the Ergenekon trial ends in prosecutions 'maybe that kind of nationalism in Turkey is going to weaken'.

                  Who's who in Turkey

                  The AKP: In power for a year. Islamist, but has so far pursued a pro-Western agenda. In favour of Turkey becoming a member of the EU. Attempts to raise profile of Islam in Turkish society have led its opponents to accuse it of flouting Turkey's secular constitution.

                  Republican People's party: The main parliamentary opposition. Secular and nationalist. Seen as hostile to the EU.

                  The PKK: Outlawed Kurdish separatist party

                  The judges: Trial involving AKP could lead to party being disbanded for instituting Islamic state.

                  The military: Staged coup in 1980. Widely seen as responsible for fall of Islamist government in 1997.


                  • #54

                    July 27, 2008 -- Two consecutive explosions in a busy shopping district in an Istanbul suburb have killed at least 13 people and injured 100.

                    Istanbul's governor Muammer Guler told reporters at the scene that "it is certain that this is a terror attack."

                    "First a percussion bomb exploded and then a bomb in a garbage container exploded. Thirteen were killed and more than 100 people were wounded," the deputy prime minister, Hayati Yazici, told reporters.

                    Turkish television stations showed ambulances carrying badly wounded people to hospital.

                    A witness says the two explosions were some 10 minutes apart.

                    "The first explosion was not very strong," said Huseyin Senturk, who owns a shoe shop in the area. "Several people came to see what was going on. That's when the second explosion occurred and it injured many onlookers."

                    "We received nearly 30 very heavily wounded people," said Abdullah Toker, a manager at Gungoren Kolon Hospital.

                    Several groups, including Kurdish separatists, far-left groups and Islamists, have carried out bomb attacks in Istanbul in the past.

                    No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.


                    • #55

                      ANKARA, July 30, 2008 -- A court ruling that rejected a demand to ban Turkey's governing party is a victory for democracy in the country, senior party members said Wednesday.

                      "With this decision, the bar of democracy has been lifted up," the Speaker of Parliament Koksal Toptan was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.

                      The Constitutional Court narrowly rejected the chief prosecutor's demand to outlaw the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) for undermining the country's secular system, punishing it with financial sanctions instead.

                      Court president Hasim Kilic said the ruling was still a "serious warning" to the AKP to respect the country's secular principles.

                      "We, the politicians, will of course evaluate the elements of this ruling very well and learn important lessons from it. We all have to do this," Toptan said.

                      Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul said the outcome was "of extraordinary importance in the history of our democracy and law," Anatolia reported.

                      "Turkey has been saved from uncertainty. Turkey will continue on its way in confidence and stability," he said in the western city of Izmir.

                      But the main opposition party said the court had failed to resolve the country's "crisis" over secularism.

                      "The Constitutional Court has not resolved the crisis, it has (only) confirmed it," Deniz Baykal, the chairman of the hardline secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.

                      Baykal underlined that the court did not clear the AKP of charges of undermining the secular system, opting to punish it with financial sanctions instead of dissolution.

                      Sweden meanwhile welcomed the ruling saying it had nipped a "disguised coup" in the bud.

                      "I state with great satisfaction that an attempt to stage a thinly disguised legal coup against the government in Turkey failed today," said Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

                      Bildt said he hoped the ruling party would now "accelerate the necessary democratic reforms in the country."

                      European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn made a similar appeal.

                      "I take good note of the ruling of the Constitutional Court in Turkey. I encourage Turkey now to resume with full energy its reforms to modernise the country," he said in a statement.

                      "I encourage the relevant parties to work towards sustainable reforms based on a consensus forged through a broad-based dialogue with all sections of Turkish society. Alignment of Turkey’s rules on political parties with European standards is essential," he added.


                      • #56

                        ISTANBUL, September 27, 2008 -- An Istanbul court Saturday charged six people with links to a shadowy gang allegedly bent on toppling the country's government, the Anatolia news agency reported.

                        The six, including a prominent journalist staunchly opposed to the Justice and Development party (AKP) of Prime Minister Tecep Tayyip Erdogan, along with a former judge, ex-mayor and former police chief, have been detained since Tuesday.

                        All are accused of belonging to the secularist-ultranationalist group Ergenekon, accused of a variety of violent acts, including the 2006 bombing of a newspaper and an armed attack on a top court the same year in which a senior judge was killed.

                        Some 86 people charged with creating an "armed terrorist organisation" - ostensibly Ergenekon - aimed to sow violence and create a climate favorable for a coup face trial October 20 in Silivri, 50 kilometres (31 miles) northwest of Istanbul.

                        The months-long investigation has targeted two retired four-star generals, several senior journalists and academics known to be government critics.

                        Other suspects are widely seen as embodying the so-called "deep state" - a term used to describe security forces acting outside the law, often collaborating with organized crime, to protect what they consider Turkey's best interests.


                        • #57

                          ISTANBUL, Turkey, October 20, 2008 (AP) — Chaos erupted Monday as a group of 86 people, including former army officers, a best-selling author and an ultra-nationalist lawyer, crowded into a prison courtroom for trial on charges of conspiring to overthrow Turkey's Islamic-oriented government.

                          A panel of judges adjourned the proceeding after defendants and lawyers jamming the courtroom complained they could not hear. The proceedings later resumed with only the 46 jailed suspects and their lawyers. The other 40 suspects in the case are free pending trial.

                          The defendants are charged with seeking to destabilize Turkey with attacks ahead of a planned coup in 2009. But at the heart of the trial is a widening division between the country's growing Islamic class with political and economic clout and the backlash from secular foes, some of whom have turned to violence.

                          The case has raised concerns about political instability in Turkey, a country that has endured the ouster of four governments by the military since 1960.

                          But the investigation so far has not uncovered alleged involvement by active-duty military officers or other state officials, despite what many Turks believe is a long history of crime by elements of the Turkish state.

                          The defendants are accused of being part of a nationalist network called Ergenekon — which takes its name from a legendary valley in Central Asia believed to be the ancestral homeland of Turks — and of plotting an armed uprising.

                          A new hearing was set for Thursday so the court can consider a demand by defendants that the judges be replaced because of alleged bias, Anatolia news agency reported.

                          The conflict between the government and its secular opponents eased in July when the Constitutional Court ruled against disbanding the ruling Justice and Development Party, which was accused of steering the country toward Islamic rule, but imposed a fine as a warning.

                          The coup plot trial revisits the battle over Turkey's political and social future, with government opponents saying the case is an attempt to cow them with the courts. The government, meanwhile, says it is an opportunity to expose the influence of the "deep state," a shadowy network of alleged extremists with links to state institutions, including the military.

                          The trial is being held at a prison complex in Istanbul's Silivri district on the coast of the Sea of Marmara. The courtroom can accommodate about 280 people, but an accreditation system appeared to have failed and almost double that number tried to enter Monday.

                          "The trial is being held in a courtroom too small and inappropriate for a fair trial," opposition lawmaker Sahin Mengu said outside the court. "This is the Turkish republic's shame."

                          Some 1,500 people gathered outside the courthouse in support of the defendants, holding Turkish flags and portraits of the suspects. They shouted slogans against the government as well as the United States and the European Union, reflecting the nationalist feeling of many Turks who believe that outside influences seek to undermine their country.

                          "We want a fully independent Turkey," one sign read. Protesters also held posters of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the national founder who enshrined secularism as a way of life and restored Turkish pride after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

                          A small group of people who supported the trial gathered, but police kept them away from the larger group.

                          Human rights activists say the case is an opportunity to unravel an illegal organization, strengthen democracy in Turkey and investigate possible involvement by people currently serving office, including military and intelligence personnel.

                          "This case gives Turkey a chance to make clear that it will hold security forces accountable for abuse," said Benjamin Ward of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "But that can only happen if the investigation follows the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads."

                          Prosecutors say the defendants were behind attacks or attempted attacks on prominent Turks. These included the 2006 assault on Turkey's administrative court that killed a judge and on the pro-secular Cumhuriyet newspaper, allegedly carried out by secularists impersonating Islamists to stir opposition. The violence led to secular demonstrations against the government.

                          The indictment alleges the suspects planned to kill Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk, prominent Kurdish politicians and the country's military chief.

                          Some suspects face other charges, including possessing explosives, obtaining classified documents and provoking military disobedience. Most of the arrests happened after police raided the home of a retired noncommissioned officer in Istanbul last year and seized a cache of hand grenades.


                          • #58

                            ANKARA, January 25, 2010 -- Turkey's chief of general staff said Monday the army was committed to democracy, stressing that military coups were now a "thing of the past." The Turkish army has unseated four governments since 1960 and has long wielded influence in politics. General Ilker Basbug's remarks followed fresh allegations last week that army members planned political chaos to discredit the ruling democratically elected Justice and Development Party (AKP) and pave the way for a military coup. "The Turkish army's patience also has limits... We are extremely disturbed by these allegations," an angry Basbug told reporters. "The Turkish army's position is clear... Those (coups) are now a thing of the past," he said. "We believe that the most important aspect of democracy is that power should change hands through elections and democratic means."

                            The daily Taraf reported last week that army members planned to bomb two Istanbul mosques and escalate tensions with Greece in a bid to force Greek jets to down a Turkish plane over the Aegean. The plots were allegedly part of a 2003 plan, drawn up by the now-retired First Army commander shortly after the AKP - the offshoot of a now-banned movement - came to power, to show the party as inept and lay the ground for martial law. The general staff denied the report, saying "it is impossible for anyone with reason and conscience to accept the allegations." Basbug said the army would soon make a detailed statement on the issue. Taraf said it had audio tapes and documents confirming the plan was discussed at a seminar in March 2003, attended by some 250 military officials.

                            Last month, Basbug decried a "psychological campaign" to smear the army and voiced concern at a possible "confrontation between institutions" over a flurry of allegations of military plots against the AKP, carried by the media. Turkey's constitutional court said Thursday it had annulled a law aimed at curbing the powers of military courts that had fanned tensions between the army and the government. The statement, posted on the court's website, did not detail on what grounds the ruling was made. AKP had argued that limiting the powers of military courts was a requirement in Turkey's bid to join the European Union. The bill would have allowed civilian courts to try military personnel in peace time for attempts to topple the government and offences related to national security and organised crime.


                            • #59

                              February 22, 2010 -- Police in Turkey today detained more than 40 high-ranking military commanders for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government. The arrests highlighted the ongoing struggle between the secular establishment and the government and leaves question marks over the traditional role of the military as the pillar of the secular state. The detention of several senior military officers – including members of the elite class known as Pashas, a title of respect harking back to Ottoman times – underlines that such officials are no longer untouchable. "We could not even dream about things that we see happening now," Turkey's deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, said. "Things will get better when those who were never accountable for their deeds begin to account for them." The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is in Madrid, said only that the crackdown was carried out solely on the orders of prosecutors. "It would not be appropriate for me to talk about an issue that is already handled by the judiciary," Erdogan said.

                              The military's image was already tarnished by allegations it was secretly planning to depose Erdogan's elected government for undermining secularism in the predominantly Muslim but officially secular country. The commanders detained today are reportedly accused of seeking to foment chaos by blowing up mosques to trigger a military takeover. The military denies the accusation. Yesterday, before the arrests, Erdogan said the government was preserving the rule of law. "We did not give a chance to those who tried to fly a course for Turkey outside law," he said.Several high-ranking members of Turkey's military, including ex-deputy chief General Ergin Saygun, former air force chief General Ibrahim Firtina and navy chief Admiral Ozden Ornek were among those detained. Several other senior admirals and generals were also among the suspects. In total prosecutors have charged more than 400 people, including soldiers, academics, journalists and politicians. No one has yet been convicted. The detentions followed revelations of wiretap evidence and the discovery of secret weapons caches, which dealt a blow to the military's credibility. Turkey's secular military has ousted four governments since 1960, which is why many Turks believe it has been the real power since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created the republic out of the Ottoman Empire. Under European Union pressure, Erdogan has dramatically curtailed the military's power and reinforced civilian rule, while bolstering democratic institutions.


                              • #60

                                February 22, 2010 -- Turkey's once all-powerful military is facing the biggest challenge to its authority in decades after 49 senior officers were detained on accusations of plotting to topple the country's Islamist-rooted government in a violent coup. A former deputy chief of the army, a retired air force chief, the chief of the navy and several generals and admirals were among those detained by police in a sweep carried out in eight Turkish cities. Hurriyet reported on its website that the round-up included 17 retired generals, four serving admirals and 27 lower-ranking officers. The detentions dramatically raised the ante in a rumbling power struggling between the Justice and Development party (AKP) government and the armed forces, and prompted the army chief of staff, General Ilker Basbug, to call off a trip to Egypt. They represented the boldest assault yet on the military's elevated status by prosecutors, who have been investigating alleged conspiracies by secularists to unseat the AKP for more than two years. The army, which has dispatched four governments in the past 50 years, was once considered all but untouchable in its role as custodian of Turkey's secular state. Several high-ranking officers, including retired generals, are already being tried on accusations of belonging to a movement known as Ergenekon, which is said to have plotted a military coup by stoking civil unrest. Journalists, academics, lawyers and politicians are also accused of being part of Ergenekon, which the government has depicted as a cabal of secular elitists determined to maintain their privileges. Although there was no official explanation, the latest arrests appeared to stem from a separate alleged coup plot, known as Sledgehammer, revealed by a Turkish newspaper, Taraf, last month. According to testimony in 5,000 pages of stolen army documents, the plan – dating from 2003 – envisaged a putsch against the AKP after a campaign of destabilisation involving bombing mosques and provoking a war with Greece. The army has denied the documents represented a coup plot and instead described them as a "scenario".

                                On a visit to Spain Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, refused to comment on the latest developments, saying: "It would not be appropriate for me to talk about an issue that is already handled by the judiciary." But critics will depict the detentions as part of a witch-hunt by the AKP aimed at politicising the judiciary, undermining the military and weakening the secular constitution handed down by Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. The arrests follow a row over the detention last week of the chief prosecutor of the north-eastern province of Erzincan, Ilhan Cilhaner, on charges of belonging to Ergenekon after he had ordered an investigation of an Islamist group. Cilhaner's arrest prompted the strongly pro-secularist Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors to strip the powers of the special prosecutor who had ordered it. The detentions also followed a ruling last month by Turkey's highest court, the constitutional court, overturning government legislation that would have allowed serving military officers to be tried in civilian courts, rather than military tribunals as at present. Analysts suggested that the arrests were aimed at trying officers before the constitutional court's ruling could be recorded in the official gazette, when it would become effective. Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based specialist on Turkish military affairs, said the arrests could trigger a major crisis. "The prosecutors have four days to turn these detentions into formal arrests and if they do that, there is no way the army will sit back and not respond," he said. "This is a power struggle between two authoritarian forces. The agenda behind Ergenekon is to reduce the power of the military."


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