The trial of 86 members of Ergenekon, a shadowy right-wing group accused of planning assassinations and bombings to trigger the overthrow of the AK Party government in Turkey, will open on Monday.
Eighty-six people are accused of plotting a coup against Turkey’s Islamic-rooted AKP government in the country’s most important trial in the past decade.
In a jam-packed room, the defense attorneys complained of the lack of space, urging the tribunal’s president to adjourn the audience. A video screen has since been installed in an adjacent room, thereby allowing journalists and those close to the accused to watch the events as they unfold in the courtroom.
The suspects - 46 of whom are remanded in custody - include retired army officers, leftist politicians, members of secularist associations, journalists, academics and underworld figures.
Suspected of supporting the ultra-nationalist group Ergenekon, they are accused of planning a series of attacks and assassinations to incite the military to overthrow the government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“For the first time, retired Turkish generals go on trial for plotting a coup,” Jasper Mortimer, FRANCE 24’s correspondent reported from Istanbul. “This is also the first time the prosecution will move this far against what is believed to be part of the ‘deep state’” (a network of cells linking extremists and members from the military, politics and the judiciary who are believed to be involved in the killings of several people, including journalists and judges, back in the 1980s).
The trial comes after an investigation into the discovery of 27 hand-grenades in the home of a retired military officer in Istanbul in June 2007. Prosecutors suspect the house may have been linked to Ergenekon.
The Ergenekon group is accused of carrying out the 2006 bombing of a secularist newspaper critical of the AKP and an armed attack on a top Turkish court in the same year. A senior judge was killed.
A test for the military
The trial is seen as a key test for the all powerful Turkish military.
“The military has always managed to block the investigations and evade accountability,” says Mortimer in Istanbul. Nationalists, who are aligned with the military, hope this trial will be a damp squid and that the military will be able to function like before - with all its privileges and power.”
The army, which has toppled four governments in the past, threatened to oust Erdogan's government. The government is suspected of trying to introduce Islamic rule in Turkey. The AKP narrowly escaped closure earlier this year because of the anti-secular accusations.
The party denied any such plan, saying it believed in the separation of state and religion.
“This is a real test for the Turkish judiciary. It’s fundamental to see if the trial goes all the way or if it’s fudged,” according to Mortimer.
For Liberal Turks and government supporters this trial is a step forward but hard-core secularists and nationalists see it as AKP's means of political revenge.
“Liberal Turks want this case to be presented properly and see the guilty punished,” says Mortimer. “They know the EU will be closely watching and, if this case is fudged, it will weaken Turkey’s case for EU membership.”
Date created : 2008-10-20