Alleged coup plot probe roils Turkey
Last week's arrest of senior military officers and the discovery of several weapons caches deepens the investigation into a suspected secularist coup plan.
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Other parts of Turkey's secularist establishment, including the judiciary, are also crying foul over the course that the Ergenekon investigation is taking, saying the government is using it to silence its opposition and settle scores.Skip to next paragraph
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"We are witnessing a confrontation against the Republic's core values. This is a regime change, like in the Khomeini and Hitler eras," Deniz Baykal, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said at a press conference after last week's arrests.
The Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV) and the Istanbul bar association have also strongly criticized the way the investigation has been unfolding.
"We are concerned about the rule of law [in Turkey], as these people were detained because of their works and sensitivity over the democratic order, constitutional regime, secularism, and integrity of the state, in a way that could be assessed as revenge," Muammer Aydin, head of the Istanbul Bar, said recently.
But criticism of the case has not been limited to hard-line secularists.
Investigation tainted by politics?
The large number of arrests, which include some of the AKP's most vocal critics, and the dubious nature of the some of the evidence in the investigation have some observers asking if the Ergenekon case has become tainted by politics.
"I do not perceive Ergenekon as an empty investigation and I don't want to see it that way. In no way am I underestimating it. But if not put on the right track soon, I think it might turn into a big fiasco," Mehmet Ali Birand, a leading Turkish commentator, wrote recently.
Adds Jenkins, the military analyst: "[The Ergenekon investigation] started as a kernel of truth, but the AKP has seized on this as an opportunity to undermine the military and its secularist opponents and try to destroy their public reputation. With every step, it has become more politicized and anti-democratic."
Government officials have rejected claims that the probe has gone off track, saying its critics are simply not accustomed to seeing the rule of law extending to what had previously been untouchable figures.
Still, observers say that the enormity and importance of the case requires the government to move carefully.
"There really needs to be a scrupulous investigation. Everything has to be done by the book and in the right way," says Emma Sinclair-Webb, a Turkey researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
"On the other hand, you can't just caricature this whole process as simply being about a power struggle," she says.
"It's just too important of a chance for Turkey to grapple with a very dark history and get rid of a criminal apparatus within the state."