The European Commission apparently thinks they can. Its latest progress report on Turkey concludes its review of the Ergenekon/Sledgehammer cases with the following amazing statement:
“Overall, the investigation into the alleged criminal network Ergenekon and the probe into several other coup plans remain an opportunity for Turkey to strengthen confidence in the proper functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law. However, there are concerns as regards judicial guarantees for all suspects. Turkey still needs to align its legislation as regards procedure and grounds for closure of political parties with European standards.”
It is understandable that the Commission needs to be diplomatic, and the caveats indicate that they understand there are problems in the judicial proceedings. But what is not excusable is the faith that the report’s authors retain – after three years of accumulated evidence on deliberate undermining of the rule of law – in these trials’ potential for strengthening democracy in Turkey.
Here is how Wikipedia defines a “show trial”:
“The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial. The term was first recorded in the 1930s. There is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant and that the actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as an impressive example and as a warning. Show trials tend to be retributive rather than correctional justice.”
This describes perfectly what is going on in Turkey at present. The Ergenekon/Sledgehammer trials are waged in a highly public manner, supported by media campaigns of disinformation and defamation targeted at the defendants. The prosecutors and the police evince little interest in uncovering the truth or going after real crimes. Planted and forged evidence is deployed widely and uncritically. The government blatantly uses the trials for political gain. And the ultimate objectives are payback and political leverage rather than justice.
Listen to Margaret Owen's description of what's going on in a trial at the moment of some leading Kurdish politicians (ht: Nilgun Gokgur).
“It is clear from the 7,500-page indictment and so-called supporting evidence that there are no grounds for suspecting any actual crimes have been committed, such as references to weapons, acts of violence, or conspiracy for terrorism. Most of the evidence is based on (unlawful) wiretapping and bugging to draw conclusions from private daily conversations, or on routine political propaganda and secret statements by anonymous prosecution witnesses.
Innocent conversations, for example, referring to the purchasing of "tomatoes" or "bread", are construed as codes for bombs and grenades and have found their way into the indictment, along with intimate and personal conversations between family members and friends.”
This trial of Kurdish politicians is separate and independent from the Ergenekon/Sledgehammer trials. But the prosecutorial tactics are identical.
In fact, the state of Turkish justice is far worse than what Owen reveals. In some of the key cases such as Sledgehammer, judicial wrongdoings go much farther and there is very strong evidence that the prosecutors are basing their case on fabricated evidence, disregarding all signs that the documents they use have been forged.
It is too bad that the European Commission cannot tell the difference between real justice and show trials.