The first hearing on the trial regarding the "Sledgehammer Coup Operation Plan" was held in Silivri (west of Istanbul) on Thursday (16 December). The plan was allegedly prepared in 2003 to prepare the ground for a military coup. The indictment accuses 196 defendants of the attempt to overthrow the government. 187 defendants attended the Thursday hearing.
Retired General Çetin Doğan, former First Army Commander, is mentioned as the prime suspect in the indictment which also includes former Armed Forces Commanders İbrahim Fırtına and Özden Örnek, 6th Army Corps Commander Lieutenant Gen. Nejat Berk, Northern Naval Area Commander Lieut. Gen. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu, Commander of the Military Academy Major Gen. Ahmet Yavuz, Tactical Infantry Division Commander Major Gen. Gürbüz Kaya, Southern Task Group Commander Vice Admiral Caner Bener and the names of another 25 active generals.
Nine defendants did not attend the hearing, among them retired Gen. Ergin Saygun, former First Army Commander. Saygun's lawyer presented a medical report to the court.
Judge Ömer Diken presides over the Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court after his very recent appointment to the case two days prior to the first hearing. The other members of the court board are judges Davut Bedir, Murat Üründü and Ali Efendi Peksak. The former president judge was changed by a unanimous decision of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) earlier this week.
Gendarmerie Sergeant Recep Yavuz was excluded from the indictment because his identification details did not match with the identification stated in the indictment. Thus, the number of defendants went down by one to 195.
Journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak applied for joint plaintiff status. He was allowed to take a place at the area reserved for the plaintiff parties.
In the course of the confirmation of the defendants' identities, prime suspect Doğan's monthly income was quoted with TL 4,500 (€ 2,250). Defendants İbrahim Fırtına and Özden Örnek stated to earn TL 7,000 (€ 3,500) per month.
The defence lawyers applied for the recusal of the judge. The request will be assessed by the superior court. The case was adjourned to 28 December.
The indictment was accepted on 19 July. It comprises about 900 pages in 183 dossiers and an attachment. On 23 July, arrest orders were issued about 102 defendants but the orders were lifted upon the objection of the superior court. Hence, none of the defendants is in detention.
The defendants are facing prison terms of between ten and 20 years each under charges of "attempting to overthrow executive organs of the Turkish Republic by force and to hinder them from fulfilling their duty by force".
The Sledgehammer coup plan was initially brought to the headlines by Taraf newspaper. The plan allegedly aimed at overthrowing the government of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and preparing the grounds for a military coup by violent actions. The plan supposedly included the control of the media, the arrest of about 200,000 people, imprisoning several journalists and "taking advantage" of other journalists.
Commanders on trial
Özden Örenek, one of the military officers on trial, is a former Naval Forces Commander. Diaries allegedly belonging to Örnek had previously revealed information on coup plans with the code names "Blond Girl", "Moonlight" and Sea Sparkle". Örnek was also interrogated in the scope of the Ergenekon investigation. Regarding the Sledgehammer coup plan, he is alleged to have signed the so-called SUGA action plan that aimed at initiating the preparations for a coup d'état by creating tension with Turkey's neighbour Greece.
İbrahim Fırtına is a former Air Force Commander. His name is mentioned in Örnek's diaries. He is supposed to be the operation commander of the "Thunderstorm operation" as part of the Sledgehammer coup plan. This operation was designed to crash a Turkish jet plane over Greek airspace to force a crisis between the two countries.
Çetin Doğan is mentioned as the Martial Law Commander. Being asked about his signature under the plan, Doğan replied that this was the ordinary procedure for the organization of "military games".
Ergin Saygun allegedly said to find the EMASYA plan insufficient. This plan allowed soldiers to intervene in social events.
Former Lieut. Gen. Engin Alan retired in2005. He is still the General Manager of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Reinforcement Foundation and is the former Head of the Special Military Department. He was a Special Forces Commander when Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the armed outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and PKK member Şemdin Sakık. (EÜ/VK)