“Sledgehammer” prosecutor receives 15-year jail term on coup charges

A Turkish prosecutor who was part of a team that worked on a case to jail alleged coup-plotters has himself been sentenced to jail on coup-related charges.

A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced Huseyin Kaplan, a former public prosecutor who worked on the infamous Sledgehammer case, to 15 years imprisonment on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, on Tuesday. 

The prosecution accused Kaplan of helping the failed 2016 coup attempt, by being part of the court case that indicted the secularist military officers on coup charges in 2010. The indictment suggests that by persecuting secularist military officers previously, Kaplan indirectly helped the formation of the senior military staff make-up who allegedly perpetrated putsch.

The Sledgehammer Court Case

The Sledgehammer case was dubbed after “Operation Sledgehammer,” an alleged secularist coup plan drafted in 2003 to overthrow the ruling AK Party. The court case against the plan started in 2010 after drafts of the plan and voice records of the high-ranking generals discussing the operation started to circulate in Turkish media.

According to the allegations, Operation Sledgehammer involved bombing two historic mosques in a bid to provoke a clash between conservative Turks and the army. It further included the downing of an air force jet to escalate tensions with neighboring Greece with the aim of forcing parliament into backing martial law, allowing the military to seize power.

Turkey’s Chief of General Staff at the time, General Ilker Basbug denied the coup plot allegations. Although the army officially recognized the existence of the plans, it maintained that they were ordinary operational plans and “war games”, which it claimed was routine conduct of the Turkish military.

The manner of speaking in the voice records startled the public opinion and dealt a serious blow to the people’s trust in the Turkish Army as an institution, which was the most trusted government institution for Turkish citizens throughout the history of the republic.

The judge issued jail terms between 16 to 20 years for 300 military officers in 2012.

The dismantling of the case

However, in December 2013 corruption allegations involving senior members of the AK Party government, led by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan surfaced.

Erdogan blamed the Gulen Organization, a faith-based movement lead by cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in self-imposed exile in the US, and accused the group of staging a “judicial coup.”

Holding onto this narrative, Erdogan administration started to discredit the previous cases that gave it an upper hand to exert civilian authority over the military.

Subsequently, a Supreme Court decision initiated the release of convicts of the Sledgehammer case in 2014, along with the defendants of the Ergenekon trial, the case against an alleged secularist clandestine organization, also accused of coup plots.

Erdogan’s fall out with the Gulen Movement — a group he seemed to endorse in the first years of being in office when he also was viewed as pro-reform — turned into a widespread crackdown following the failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan immediately blamed the Gulenists as the coup attempt was still underway, and justified his previous claims against the group.

The Turkish government classified the movement as a terrorist group and cracked down on tens of thousands over alleged ties with the organization.

Along with more than 150,000 public servants, thousands of judges were dismissed and arrested in the wake of the putsch, including members of the Supreme Court, the Court of Cassation and the Council of State.

Dogan’s rights violated – Turkey Constitutional Court


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