Turkish Minister of National Defense Ismet Yilmaz said on Thursday that the 73 Turkish army officers that were acquitted from involvement in Ergenekon and Balyoz cases in which they were originally convicted of planning a “coup” against the government, have been restored to their army posts.
According to Yilmaz, 46 officers out of a total 73 will have a chance for promotion in the coming meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS).
Yilmaz said, “46 officers out of a total 73 have the rank of colonel, and they will have a promotion review in the upcoming meeting of the Supreme Military Council. The members of YAS will look at their performance compared with their peers and will make a judgment meritocratic assessment of their qualifications”
The Ergenekon trials - which began in July 2008 - were a series of high-profile trials in which numerous military officers, journalists, and political figures were tried and convicted of planning a military coup against the Turkish government.
The 13th Istanbul Heavy Penal Court sentenced Ilker Basbug, the former chief of the Turkish Army, and 63 other officers - including nine other generals, to life imprisonment in August 2013.
However, it had taken more than 7 months for the 13th Istanbul Heavy Penal Court to produce its decision - which led the defendants to appeal to the Constitutional Court claiming that their constitutional rights were compromised in the meantime.
The Constitutional Court ruled in March 2014, that the defendants’ rights were violated and that they should be released. The defendants, including General Basbug, were eventually released.
In a recent development, Turkey’s Chief Prosecutor demanded the Supreme Court overrule the Ergenekon Case and forwarded the appellate review to the 16th Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court.
The Sledgehammer case’s prosecutors claimed that there was a Turkish secularist military coup planned against the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which allegedly dated back to 2003.
In 2012, 300 of the 365 suspects in the Ergenekon case were sentenced to prison terms while 34 suspects were acquitted. In June 2014, all the suspects were released from prison, pending a retrial, following the Constitutional Court’s decision.
In March 2015, the Anatolian 4th Heavy Criminal Court acquitted 236 suspects in the Sledgehammer case following the prosecutor's argument that digital data in the files submitted as evidence was fake and did not constitute evidence.
The court also made the decision to charge the people connected with producing forged official documents. However, the Anatolian Chief Prosecutor forwarded the investigation into forgery of official documents to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor because the crime was allegedly committed in the European side of Istanbul.
The Anatolian Chief Prosecutor also asked for the investigation to include an allegation that the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor has already investigated, which is that the Gulen movement plotted against some of the suspects in the Sledgehammer case.
The defendants in both the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases claim that the activities of the courts which convicted them were connected to the Gulen movement and that they were targeted because they were perceived as a threat to the Movement.
The Gulen movement, led by Fethullah Gulen - a US based preacher of Turkish origin, is accused by the Turkish government of establishing and leading a “parallel state,” composed of a network of followers who have infiltrated the judiciary, police force, and other state agencies and have attempted to take over these institutions.
The Turkish Minister of National Defence also confirmed on Wednesday that investigations have been launched into over a thousand staff after the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) received complaints of them allegedly being connected with the ‘parallel state.”