Turkey’s supreme court of appeals has overturned the conviction of 275 people who had been tried for allegedly plotting a coup d’état against the government in Ankara back in 2003.
The high court in Ankara said on Thursday that it had found several flaws in the original trial of the individuals, among whom are former military chief Ilker Basbug, other military officers and lawyers, as well as academics and journalists.
They had been convicted of seeking to overthrow Recep Tayyip Erdogan — Turkey’s then-prime minister and current president — through activities in an alleged network referred to as Ergenekon.
The top court said that the lower court had relied on illegal wiretappings and statements from witnesses whose identities were not revealed.
Having ruled that the defendants have been denied a fair trial, the top court ruled that Basbug, the former military chief, must be retried by a high court in line with regulations on the prosecution of senior officials.
Basbug and 18 of the other defendants had been sentenced by the lower court to life in prison in 2013.
Former military chief Ilker Basbug (file photo)
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan has accused the followers of Turkish exile Fethullah Gulen of having “poisoned the judicial process” in the original trial.
Turkish officials have been speaking of a shadowy deep state associated with Gulen that they say is trying to depose Erdogan.
Gulen denies the allegation against him.
Just on Monday, police arrested more than 100 people accused of leading a “Gulenist terror group.”
A court in December 2014 issued an arrest warrant for Gulen, who fled to the United States in 1999 after authorities leveled charges against him. Turkey has asked the US to extradite him but Washington has reportedly been unwilling to do so.
Academics on trial
Another court in Istanbul will try four academics on Friday on charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda” for their alleged role in organizing a petition against the government’s military campaign in the southeast of the country.
Ankara has been engaged in a large-scale campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group in its southern border region in the past few months.
The Turkish military has been conducting offensives against the positions of the militant group in northern Iraq as well.
Turkish opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Can Dundar (L) and its Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul (photo by AFP)
Turkish journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, respectively the editor-in-chief and the Ankara bureau chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, will also appear in a closed-door hearing in the same court on Friday on charges of “espionage.”
Back in May 2015, the opposition paper published several articles and videos purportedly implicating the Turkish intelligence organization (MİT) in the clandestine provision of weapons supplies into Syria in 2014.
Ankara, however, denied the allegation, saying the trucks had been carrying humanitarian aid to Syria.
Turkey has reportedly been a major supporter of the militant groups operating in Syria, which has been grappling with a foreign-backed crisis since March 2011.
It has also been accused on numerous occasions of being involved in illegal oil trade with Daesh terrorists, another accusation it has denied.