Annulment of arrest orders reveals military superiority over law
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Observers have condemned members of the military for behaving as if they are above the law, a situation that manifested itself once again with the annulment of a court order to arrest dozens of suspects, including active duty and retired senior military commanders, on coup charges.

The annulment came late Friday evening. The İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court accepted the suspects' lawyers' appeal of a July 23 decision by the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court, which ordered the arrest of 102 military officers in the investigation into the Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan, a subversive plan allegedly prepared by a now-retired general.

“Military members against whom an arrest warrant was issued were not captured in two weeks. Had such a warrant been issued for an ordinary citizen, an immediate [police] operation would have been launched and the suspect would have been handed over to justice,” noted retired prosecutor Reşat Petek. According to Petek, the annulment of the arrest warrant is a strong indication of the invalidity of court decisions for military members.

The Turkish military has recently been the center of growing criticism for its efforts not to hand over the suspects to judicial authorities. The officers against whom an arrest warrant had been issued were accommodated in military facilities so that they would not be apprehended by security forces.

Sledgehammer is a suspected military plot aimed at unseating the government. It was drafted by retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, the former commander of the 1st Army, in 2003, shortly after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rose to power as a single party. The military considers the party pro-reactionary and believes it poses a danger to the secular republic; thus, it has allegedly been engaged in various plans to overthrow the AK Party government.

The Sledgehammer plot included plans to shoot down a Turkish jet and bomb large mosques at busy prayer hours to undermine the AK Party government, with the hope of eventually unseating it.

“A shelter was created for the serving and retired suspects. Everyone is supposed to respect court decisions in countries governed by the rule of law, but this was not the case in Turkey,” Petek added.

The annulment of the arrest warrant was the result of a sly move by the presiding judge of the İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court. A group of judges at the court led by Bülent Akasma was supposed to examine an appeal by the suspects’ lawyers against the warrant. But, in an unexpected move, Akasma was sent on summer vacation and replaced -- temporarily -- by another judge. The new judge ordered that the warrant be revoked.

The move brought to mind earlier attempts by various courts to prevent the arrest of coup suspects. Col. Dursun Çiçek, for example, was released from prison twice with controversial court decisions. He was, however, arrested for the first time in April on coup charges. The colonel is accused of drafting the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism against the AK Party government.

‘Justice gravely wounded’

The annulment of the arrest warrant does not mean that the Sledgehammer case file will be closed. The first hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16. The suspects may be arrested at the first hearing. Jurists, however, believe justice has been seriously wounded with the cancelation of the warrant.

“I do not think the court decision is surprising at all. The judicial process will continue. But incidents were not ordinary after the arrest warrant. Justice has been wounded since then. The suspects were not captured in the past two weeks. They were protected by the various departments of the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]. The process was filled with injustice. We need to closely monitor the days to come,” stated Ahmet Gündel, a former prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Ömer Özkan, an associate professor at the Doğuş University school of law, said the annulment of the arrest warrant does not mean that the suspects have been acquitted of all charges.

“The trial will continue. The court’s decision to revoke the arrest warrant does not mean that the case is over. The judges may have made such a decision in order not to impact the Supreme Military Council [YAŞ] deliberations,” he added.

YAŞ convened last week to decide on the promotions of the military officers, but the civilian members of the council, including the president, the prime minister and the defense minister, strongly opposed the advancement of the suspects to a higher rank. The suspects were, as a result, not promoted. The TSK’s official policy does not allow the promotion of its members if they are on trial.

Adnan Tanrıverdi, a retired senior general, approached the issue from a different perspective and said the Sledgehammer suspects should have been suspended when an İstanbul court accepted an indictment against them. “The Ministry of Defense should have suspended all suspects, regardless of rank,” he noted.

Sledgehammer selected terrorists for bloody attacks

The additional folders of evidence related to the Sledgehammer coup plan suggest that coup plotters selected 843 people to carry out the bloody plans. More than 180 of them are member of different terrorist groups. The folders were distributed to the suspects’ lawyers in early August. A recently prepared indictment against the Sledgehammer coup plan mentions 196 suspects and names Gen. Doğan as its prime suspect.

According to the folders, 183 of the large group of people who were expected to perpetrate the bloody plans devised by Sledgehammer instigators are member of al-Qaeda, the Turkish Hizbullah and Hizb ut-Tahrir. The terrorists were supposed to carry out bombings and murders to foment chaos in society that would place the AK Party in a difficult position. The chaos would urge the military to stage a coup d’etat. In the past, coup planners used chaos -- such as unrest before of the March 12, 1971, memorandum and the Sept. 12, 1980 coup -- as a precedent for their actions. Social unrest in the country preceding other military interventions is thought to have aided the military in seizing control of the country.

Source >  Todays Zaman

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