Friday, September 21, 2012

Islamist Purge Trials for Turkish Military

Hat tip to Fox News. The report came from the Associated Press.

Many in the West are still under the impression that Turkey is a secular nation and that it continues to follow the plan of Kemal Ataturk, who after WWI founded modern Turkey on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

So enduring is this belief that even a Doctor of Studies at my son's High School, who recently returned from a summer trip to Turkey, was completely unaware of the fact that  Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which has controlled Turkey since 2003, is Islamist. While meeting with her during the summer, I briefly mentioned that Erdogan's Islamist party has been steadily rolling back the restrictions on the place of Islam in the nation. In response she, apparently under the impression that I had not learned about Ataturk's system  back in middle school, noted that Turkey's government is secular in nature. 

As one can imagine, I run into this sort of thing quite often. 

One wonders what goes on in a person's mind that forces him or her to ignore anything new. The very fact that I noted what was going on in Turkey should have caused her to assume that just maybe I was aware of something of which she was not. As happens all too often when a regular guy is meeting with a high-ranking academic, what information is offered by the former is essentially ignored by the latter.

The people of Turkey, weary of having a reasonable amount of freedom, elected Erdogan as Prime Minister in 2003. His Islamist party has run the show since then. The secular Turkey that is held up in the West as a shining example of what a moderate Muslim-majority nation could be has ceased to be anything of the sort.

Turkey's leading military men, not always the nicest guys themselves, on more than one occasion have asserted control to enforce the secular-styled laws put into place by Ataturk. In 2003, a large number of military leaders were charged with taking part in a plot to overthrow the Islamists. I remembered reading about this when it happened. At the time, I wondered if Erdogan's boys had falsely charged the leaders in an attempt to purge the military of the old guard and install younger Generals and Admirals. Promoting officers who may be more sympathetic to the idea of a Turkey in which Islam plays a major part would be a political victory for Erdogan.

Today it was reported that the verdicts and sentences are in. The trial was almost a decade in the making. A lot of Turkish officers were found guilty and some will serve quite a bit of time in prison. From the beginning, many of the accusations did not appear to be legitimate to me. 

At this point, I would be very surprised if Turkey has any appreciable chance of avoiding the decline into a fully Muslim state. With the military likely being run by Islamist officers, there will be little chance for the secularists to defend their way of life. Calls* have even been made for Hagia Sophia, the great 6th Century cathedral of Constantinople, to be to returned to Mosque status. It had of course become a Mosque immediately following the sack of Constantinople in 1453 (presumably after the raped nuns had been ushered out), but Ataturk had it turned into a museum after the fall of the Ottomans.

-From Fox News-

"ANKARA, Turkey – A Turkish court on Friday convicted 330 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the Islamic-based government in 2003, state television reported, in a case that has helped curtail the military's hold on politics.

A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul's outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek and former army commander Cetin Dogan to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term, TRT reported. The three were accused of masterminding the plot.

The court also convicted 327 other active or retired officers for involvement in the conspiracy, sentencing some to as much as 18 years in prison. Thirty-four were acquitted while the case against one was postponed for health reasons.

The officers were expected to appeal the verdict.

The trial of the high-ranking officers -- unconceivable a decade ago -- has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in Turkey in favor of civilian authorities.

Turkey's generals have staged three coups since the 1960s and forced an Islamist government to quit in 1997. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has grown ever more confident with each of its three electoral successes since 2002 and has been drawing reins on the powers of the armed forces which have long seen themselves as the guardians of Turkey's secular traditions.

Erdogan's government has hailed the trial which began in December 2010, and other similar ones as a break with a tradition of impunity and a move toward greater democracy. But the officers' case -- dubbed "Sledgehammer" after the alleged conspiracy -- has been marred by the suspects' long confinement without a verdict and some judicial flaws, including allegations of fabricated evidence. The government's secular critics have denounced the coup plot trials as a ploy to intimidate opponents.

Prosecutors accused the 365 defendants in the trial of plotting to depose Erdogan by triggering turmoil in the country that would have paved the way for a military takeover.

They claimed the plotters, taking part in an army seminar in 2003, drew up plans for a coup which included bombings of mosques, the downing of a Turkish fighter plane and other acts of violence that would have allowed the military to intervene on the pretext of restoring order.

The defendants reject the charges. The military has said officers taking part in the seminar discussed a fictitious scenario involving internal conflict, but that there were no plans for a military coup."

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