x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Analysis: Turkey's military suffers setback with coup ruling

The trial is proof that the country is finally shrugging off its problematic legacy of army interference in politics, Thomas Seibert, Foreign Correspondent, writes

ISTANBUL // Long prison sentences against Turkish former generals accused of plotting a coup show that the country is moving out of the shadow of military control, but raises doubts about the judicial system, analysts said yesterday.

"The process was disturbingly unfair," Ilter Turan, a political scientist at Istanbul's Bilgi University, said.

But "to be able to try high-ranking military officers for plotting a coup is to the credit of a system in which politics should be dominated by elected politicians". He said any threat of a military takeover in Turkey had diminished further with the verdict in the so-called "Sledgehammer" case that saw three former commanders jailed for 20 years in prison for plotting to overthrow the government.

"Even before the verdict, the power of the military had been waning," Mr Turan said.

"This is an additional step. The military has lost its role as a veto group over politics."

Turkey's generals have pushed four governments from power since 1960 and threatened to unseat Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current prime minister, in 2007.

But since then, Mr Erdogan's government has minimised the generals' political role with a series of legal reforms.

Last year, the prime minister won a power struggle with the military leadership that forced almost the entire general staff into resignation. Nazli Ilicak, a former member of parliament, said she pitied the commanders because they had been trained to act with a sense of impunity.

"From 1960 onwards, the military unfortunately acted with the idea that a coup d'etat was not a crime, because no one that undertook a coup was ever brought to justice," Ms Ilicak told the NTV news channel. "This is why I am sad for them."

But lawyers for the former commanders said the trial violated the right of the defence and accused the prosecution of presenting manipulated evidence.

Mr Turan said irregularities during the trial left a dark stain on the proceedings.

There were questions as to whether the court allowed the process to develop according to the rule of law, he said.