There is a famous proverb used in English that we could use in our lives quite often: Silence is bliss. Not in Turkey any more.
Here, silence is not counted as a bliss. Instead it has ruined the lives of many intellectuals.
The Sledgehammer Case of Turkey started in January 2010 which marks a turning point in the history of justice in Turkey. With the delivery of a mysterious suitcase full of 6000 “confidential” documents to a reporter at Taraf Newspaper, the Turkish military faced the most serious criminal allegations in the country’s history. Following the publishing of the story, in which the military was claimed to have prepared plans to make a military coup in Turkey, almost 365 army officials either retired or on duty, were taken into jail. The documents included incredible plans such as blowing up two major mosques in Istanbul during the most crowded friday prayers as well as assasinating Christian and Jewish opinion leaders living in Turkey. These plans, according to the documents, were aimed at overthrowing by then newly elected AKP (Justice and Development Party) by a military takeover and execute the detainees in stadiums which would be turned into open-air courts.
The infamous court case named “Sledgehammer” that started in 2010, ended with the jailing of hundreds of army officers ranging between captains, colonels to admirals and generals.
While the primary media coverage was skeptical towards the jailings, many reporters claimed it would be a process of relieving the country from its historical “military tutelage”.
But the skepticism soon left its place to surprise. As the trials went further, it was proven by the lawyers of the detainees that the documents consisted of “unsigned” electronic wares (mainly CD’s and detached hard drives) that have never been traced to actual military computers otherwise authenticated. The detainees repeteadly denied that such plans never existed. On the other hand, the defense teams repeteadly challenged the authenticity of the documents. Interestingly, the documents also contained fonts that did not exist back in 2003, along with other evidences that proved the case should fail; such as the references to dozens of institutions and organisations that did not exist back then.
CHP; the main opposition party of Turkey, reacted sharply to the case right from the beginning. The Chairman, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stated in various places that the Sledgehammer arrests remained unlawful as the documents proved that they were fabricated. Thus, CHP followed the case and took it to the Parliament various times from 2010 to 2014, stating that the decision made by the court was highly political and that they proved landmarks to show the present situation of Turkish legal system which violated the basic rights to fair trial.
But by June 2014 the Turkish Constitutional Court has delivered unanimously a verdict, stating that the rights of most of the suspects had been violated. Since then, more than 200 officers in relation with the Sledgehammer Case have been released and there would be retrial in the case.
We should clearly point out that the other “mass trial” cases (Sledgehammer as well as Ergenekon and KCK) which linked intellectuals and government officials with terrorist activities were all clear plans to subdue the opponents government. One should keep in mind that Sledgehammer Case has already become a symbol of political proceedings in Turkey where the Prime Minister Erdoğan chooses to turn the state into a country where opposite ideas should not live. It has created great concern not only among the opposition party, but also among the citizens. There has been upheavals and demonstrations among major cities throuhout 2013, all resulting from the concern for the oppressive attitude of the prime minister towards his opponents, as well as the public concern for internal divisions.
Sledgehammer should not only be viewed as a “show” of mass trials which reminded of the ones in eastern European countries or Soviet Union during the Cold war. It had little to do with justice and democracy and has done a lot to damage the confidence in the legal system. It was like the revenge of an “unfinished business” which only contributed to the polarisation of secularists versus the Islamists. Yes; remainging silent is no longer an option and as in Turkey, it is not a bliss anymore.