ISTANBUL – In the Turkish city of Istanbul the ‘Balyoz’ (Sledgehammer) court case has begun. ‘Balyoz’ is an alleged coup plot against the APK government. No less than 196 military personnel (many of them retired) are on trial. It’s the first court case ever in Turkey against officers suspected of planning a military coup.
The coup plot was revealed by daily newspaper Taraf about a year ago. There was supposedly a big secret meeting referred to as ‘Balyoz’ in 2003, at which the plans for a coup were being forged. The plans were spectacular: the officers wanted to make the country ‘ready’ for a military take-over by creating chaos, for example by bombing big mosques in Istanbul. The first arrests were made in February this year. The most important suspect is (retired) General Cetin Dogan. The other 195 suspects are also all from the military.
The case has been making emotions run high in Turkey for months now, mostly for political reasons. Opponents of the AKP accuse the government of using Balyoz to discredit the army, and there is continuous debate about the authenticity of evidence.
Earlier this week two judges appointed to handle the case were replaced: they were supposedly not independent and were sympathetic toward the suspects. The new judges were appointed by a high judicial council, the HSYK, that has recently come under more government influence.
Most of the suspects are being prosecuted for ‘attempted coup’, for which the maximum punishment is twenty years imprisonment. It’s unclear how long the trial will take. It’s feared that there will be an immediate delay because the new judges have not yet had enough time to study the case.