Gareth Jenkins remains the most astute and knowledgeable analyst of Turkey's political-military trials. He has been attacked relentlessly by Gulenists and others close to the government because of his critical views on these trials. But because he sticks to the facts -- he knows Turkish well and reads the indictments closely -- and is well-informed about the Turkish political scene, his credibility remains undiminished.
Jenkins' latest piece offers a very useful overview of the trials and their political background. Jenkins is no friend of the Turkish military. He makes clear that the "deep state" was/is a reality and that many in the military were involved in extra-judicial killings and other crimes. But he minces no words on the reality behind the Ergenekon-Sledgehammer trials:
"In a country where conspiracy theories are rife and where the Turkish military has a record of intervening in the political arena, initially at least, many were prepared to take the allegations at face value. However, as the investigations progressed, another–more disturbing–picture began to emerge. From the outset, the investigations were characterized by outlandish claims and numerous abuses of due process. The indictments against the accused ran to thousands of pages. Yet not only were they riddled with absurdities and contradictions, but they contained no convincing proof that either the Ergenekon organization or the coup plot existed. On the contrary, some of the evidence adduced to support the prosecutors' claims had clearly been fabricated.
Equally troubling was the profile of the accused, particularly in the Ergenekon case. Not only was there no proof that they were members of Ergenekon but they held disparate views, covering almost the entire political spectrum except for the Islamist right. Indeed, the only characteristic that the accused all appeared to share was an opposition to the JDP; and particularly to the movement inspired by the exiled Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen, which has been the JDP's more important political ally.
Although the JDP [the governing Justice and Development Party] has undoubtedly benefited politically from Ergenekon and Sledgehammer–not least because they have made many of its opponents reluctant to criticize the JDP for fear of being arrested–the government appears to be allowing the cases to proceed rather micromanaging or actively driving them. Exactly who is behind the cases remains a topic of often heated debate, but most critics blame the FGM [the Fethullah Gulen movement].
To date, no evidence has emerged to tie Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in Pennsylvania in the United States since 1999, personally to the investigations. Nevertheless, there is no question that elements from within the FGM community are heavily involved. Gulen sympathizers now dominate large swathes of the judiciary and the police force, particularly the intelligence branches, which have been providing most of the evidence for the investigations. Since the outset, the FGM's media outlets have sought to shape domestic and international public opinion about the cases by running vigorous disinformation campaigns, including inaccuracies, distortions and outright untruths. They have also mobilized their resources to launch vicious defamation campaigns against anyone who criticizes or questions the investigations.
Nor is it possible to ignore the regularity with which, particularly since 2009, the Ergenekon investigation has targeted the FGM's critics and rivals. Through early 2011, there were increasing signs that, even in a country as awash with conspiracy theories as Turkey, the public was finally beginning to question the plausibility of the outlandish claims made for Ergenekon and Sledgehammer. Similarly, the frenzied coverage of the investigations in the FGM media and the consistency with which they targeted the movement's rivals and opponents for arrest and imprisonment was increasingly looking like a coincidence too far."
Now this is interesting. Al Jazeera appears to have removed my column on Turkey from their online archives.
The piece, titled “Turkey on Trial” was first published in Al Jazeera English (AJE) at the end of July. It was one of my regular Project Syndicate columns, which are featured in AJE among other outlets. Even though my other AJE columns can be retrieved from their archives, “Turkey on Trial” has evaporated. (Note that the link is not broken; it is redirected to AJE’s home page.)
Might it be a coincidence that Al Jazeera is just about to start TV broadcasts in Turkey?
Here is the version that originally appeared in AJE, courtesy of Google cache, and here is the Project Syndicate version.
A lengthy article in the London Times has exposed the critical court case at the heart of Turkey's political-military trials for what it is: a fraud based on fabricated evidence. There is nothing new in the article itself. A few courageous Turkish journalists (Sedat Ergin and Ezgi Basaran in particular) have made many of the same points for some time. And my wife Pinar Dogan and I have now documented countless inconsistencies and anachronisms in the evidence being used by the prosecutors that leave no doubt that the alleged coup plot is a fantasy. But what is important is that for the first time a serious paper outside Turkey has taken a close look at the evidence and reached its own unambiguous verdict.
The same day that the article was published, Turkish courts arrested 8 more people for being part of the same plot. The mind boggles.
Where you might ask are Turkey's liberals and democrats? Well, a good number of them are actually applauding the case. The fact that it has served to weaken the military seems to be a good enough reason for them to disregard the fact that what is being passed off as a court case is a legal travesty.
What is involved here is not just prosecutorial zeal or Turkey's traditionally weak legal culture. We are talking of a massive fraud committed to frame and imprison innocent individuals. The court proceedings to date make painfully clear that the prosecutors and the judges are quite aware of what is going on. And how could they not be? Even a 10-year old can understand that a document that refers to an entity that was not created until 2009 could not have been prepared in 2003.
So those in Turkey (and Europe) who support this case (and the many others that are similar) are committing two serious errors. Perhaps the less serious one is that they are willing to look the other way when the rule of law and human rights are violated. But their truly fatal mistake is their failure to see that the organized groups within the police and judiciary who are manufacturing evidence and running these trials are the greatest threat to Turkey's democracy at present. By lending these groups support they are complicit in the undermining of any prospect of democracy that still remains in Erdogan's Turkey.
Yes if you are an individual, but probably not if you are an entire country. As the figure below shows, there are very few countries that have developed beyond $5,000 in 2005 PPP dollars without becoming democracies somewhere along the way (unless they are an oil economy).
This scatter plot covers all countries with population larger than 1 million and with fuel exports less than 50% of export revenues. (Democracy is measured by the Polity score, which runs from -10 to +10).
The exceptions in the chart are interesting. Singapore is the most intriguing, of course, as one of the richest countries in the world, but with what Polity considers an authoritarian regime. Belarus is one of the Soviet-era holdovers. Tunisia and Jordan – well, we know what has happened recently in that part of the world.
Which leaves China. Will China remain an exception and develop into another Singapore? Or will it go in Tunisia's direction?
My guess is that this question will leave a larger imprint on the world economy than the double-dip we seem to be entering at present.