“Trial of the century” in Turkey: former military commander, party leaders, authors and journalists amongst the 275 accused of conspiring to perform a military coup against Erdogan

Outside the court in Turkey, today.

Outside the court in Turkey, today. Photography: Reuters.

The Turkish court sentenced 275 people who opposed Erdogan’s government, who were tried for conspiring against the regime and the intent to establish a military regime today (Monday), in what has been coined the “trial of the century” in Turkey. The Turkish police prevented the defendants families from bursting in to the holding facility were the defendants were being held during trial at the time of the sentencing.  

Most of the defendants were given heavy sentences. Leader of the extremist labor party in Turkey, Dadugo Parnik, was sentenced to no less than 117 years in prison. Journalists Tonkan Ozikan and Vali Kuchuk were given life sentences. Head of the former Turkish opposition republican party, Mustafa Balabi, was sent to prison for 24 years. Other high ranking military members and other prominent opposition figures were sentenced to between 15 and 70 years in prison. 21 defendants were acquitted.          

Among the 275 defendants was also the former military chief, many retired military officers, politicians, academics and journalist – all of whom denied the accusations. According to the Turkish prosecution, a secular multinational group called “Argankun” tried to encourage terrorist activity in order to lead to a military coup in Turkey. This because they claim that Erdogan’s regime is opposed to the values of Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. On the opposing side, Erdogan claims that the government that he heads is run according to the Islamic ideology, and was elected democratically.   

Claims of a political trial, Erdogan

Claims of a political trial, Erdogan Photography: AP

The opposition claims that the accusations against those standing trial were invented in order to weaken those who oppose the Prime Minister and the secular organizations in the country. “Erdogan’s trial is theater” said Omut Oran, of the Turkish opposition. “This is not the way a 21st century country that wants to join the European Union behaves. It is a clear political trial”. Erdogan himself claims that there is no political interference with the judicial proceeding.

According to reports in Turkey, police used protest dispersion means in order to stop a break into the holding facility and the court in Silviri. A fire broke out at the site due to the use of weapons.

The struggle between the secular and the supporters of Islam is a confrontation that has been going on for at least a decade. The discussion in court is the end of a long procedure and struggle that has carried on for years between Prime Minister Erdogan and the secular camp in the country. The proceedings drew the attention of most of Turkey, with 21 networks covering the sentencing and the confrontations outside the court.