ANKARA - Turkey’s military has demanded a retrial for army officers convicted of plotting to topple the government, claiming the evidence was fabricated, media reports said Thursday.
The armed forces lodged a complaint with the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office on December 27 about the evidence given in two separate cases, the private NTV television reported. The move comes amid a growing political crisis sparked by a corruption probe that the government claims is a plot being waged against it by an organisation with close links to the police and judiciary. In 2013, former army chief General Ilker Basbug was jailed for life and scores of army officers, journalists and lawyers were imprisoned for their role in the so-called “Ergenekon” conspiracy, an alleged plot to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In 2012, more than 300 active and retired military officers were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years in a trial that ruled that an army exercise in 2003, codenamed “Sledgehammer”, was an undercover coup plot against Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP). The military, which sees itself as the guarantor of Turkey’s secular principles, has carried out three coups - in 1960, 1971 and 1980 - and forced out an Islamist government in 1997. But since coming to power in 2002, Erdogan’s government has reined in the once-powerful military with a number of court cases.
In its official complaint, the army said the evidence used in the trials against it had been fabricated and manipulated. Police, prosecutors and judges handling the two cases ignored charges by defence lawyers that the evidence was fake, according to press reports. However, the saga over the military trials has taken a new twist in the escalating feud between Erdogan’s government and the movement headed by US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Erdogan’s top political advisor Yalcin Akdogan suggested last month that those who took action against the army were also those orchestrating the high-level corruption investigation against key government allies. “Those who plotted against their country’s national army , intelligence, bank and the civilian government which won the heart of the nation know very well that they are not working for the good of this country,” Akdogan said in a column in the pro-government Star newspaper.
He was apparently referring to Gulen’s followers, who hold key positions within the police and the judiciary. Some media reports said the army had pushed its demand for retrial at a National Security Council meeting on December 27 which brought together the country’s military and political leaders. Erdogan’s government has accused the Gulen movement of acting as a “state within state” by instigating the corruption probe. Gulen, who left Turkey for the United States in 1999 after being accused of plotting to form an Islamic, has denied being involved in the investigation. The Turkish military said last week it would not interfere in the current political turmoil, which has sent the national currency and stocks tumbling.