The Istanbul 4th Heavy Penal Court acquitted all 235 Ergenekon suspects of “forming and managing, membership of, or aiding and abetting an armed organization,” declaring that no Ergenekon terrorist organization existed.
The same court handed down life sentences to Osman Yildirim, Erhan Timuroglu, and Ismail Sagir, and an aggravated life sentence to Alparslan Arslan, on charges of “violating the constitutional order”, on Monday.
The 235 suspects were accused of a conspiracy, dating back a decade, to
overthrow the Turkish government by the alleged terrorist organization.
High-ranking military personnel, politicians, journalists, and civil society figures, accused of forming the armed terrorist organization and attempting to overthrow Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have faced a series of investigations as part of the Ergenekon case.
Since 2008, the trial has seen hundreds of high-profile suspects, most of them secularists, being rounded up and placed in pre-trial detention.
The acquittal of all but four suspects has put an end to the Ergenekon trial that has allowed the AKP to consolidate its power by causing deep rifts between Turkey’s social groups for more than ten years.
Turkey’s current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, expressed his support for the probes targeting the high-profile
suspects, calling himself “the prosecutor of the trial.”
The trials were also widely acclaimed by the press that covered the Ergenekon case in Turkey, as a blow to the secular military officers who had guided Turkish politics for decades.
Serious threats and legal pressure from secular judges and prosecutors on the democratically elected AKP since 2002, has given the charges in the trial an air of credibility for many when combined with the Turks’ discomfort towards military tutelage and the fear of a coup.
Media outlets contributed to that by reporting on suspects’ alleged links to
gunning attacks, hidden weapons stockpiles, and criminal organizations.
It is widely assumed that the police officers and prosecutors who put together the trials are affiliated with Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in the US who leads the faith-based Gulen movement.
Many of the Ergenekon suspects, who were convicted in 2013 by prosecutors
close to the Gulen group, were released the following year due to a corruption investigation thought to have been launched against senior figures from Erdogan’s AKP. The verdicts in the trial were reportedly annulled for a re-trial in 2016.
The Turkish government now designates the Gulen movement as a terrorist
organization and accuses its members of orchestrating the failed military coup attempt against Erdogan and his AKP on July 15, 2016.
Gulen and his followers strongly deny the allegations against them.
Some of the judges and prosecutors who tried suspects in the Ergenekon case are currently serving time in prison over charges that include membership of a terrorist organization.
The use of the judiciary as a tool for political ends is far from over in Turkey,
where the ruling AKP is widely seen as having control over Turkish courts,
More than 77,000 people with alleged links to the Gulen movement have been imprisoned pending trial, and some 150,000 civil servants have been sacked or suspended from their jobs as part of the government-led post-coup crackdown on the group.