Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Erdogan Agonistes – Will the AK Party and the Turkish Army join forces against the Gulenists?

When the question in the heading first occurred to me a few days ago, it was in a half-facetious spirit.  But now it's beginning to look less fanciful.  Just when it seemed that the inner machinations of the political crisis in Turkey couldn't get any more weird, they did.  And it's clearer than ever that from the perspective of Erdogan and his supporters, the conflict with the Gulenists has definitely escalated to the level of all-out, no-holds-barred political warfare.  Here are two straws in the wind:

=> January 2, 2014 (AFP):
Turkish Army Demands Retrial In Coup Plot Cases

Turkey’s military demanded a retrial for army officers convicted of plotting to topple the government, claiming the evidence was fabricated, media reports said Thursday. [....]

The move comes amid a growing political crisis sparked by a corruption probe that the government claims is a plot being waged against it by an organization with close links to the police and judiciary. [....]

In 2013, former army chief Gen. Ilker Basbug was jailed for life and scores of army officers, journalists and lawyers were imprisoned for their role in the so-called “Ergenekon” conspiracy, an alleged plot to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In 2012, more than 300 active and retired military officers were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years in a trial that ruled that an army exercise in 2003, codenamed “Sledgehammer,” was an undercover coup plot against Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP). [....]

In its official complaint, the army said the evidence used in the trials against it had been fabricated and manipulated.

Police, prosecutors and judges handling the two cases ignored charges by defense lawyers that the evidence was fake, according to press reports.

However, the saga over the military trials has taken a new twist in the escalating feud between Erdogan’s government and the movement headed by US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan’s top political adviser Yalcin Akdogan suggested last month that those who took action against the army were also those orchestrating the high-level corruption investigation against key government allies.

“Those who plotted against their country’s national army, intelligence, bank and the civilian government which won the heart of the nation know very well that they are not working for the good of this country,” Akdogan said in a column in the pro-government Star newspaper.
[JW: Given the source of the accusation, this rhetorical package--which lumps together the army, the security services, and the AKP government as victims of Gulenist conspiracies--is a bit astonishing. Akdogan is clearly willing to ignore the political risks involved in de-legitimizing the sweeping purge of the Army high command and the Kemalist "deep state" apparatus with which the AKP is inextricably associated.]
He was apparently referring to Gulen’s followers, who hold key positions within the police and the judiciary. [....]

Erdogan’s government has accused the Gulen movement of acting as a “state within state” by instigating the corruption probe.

Gulen, who left Turkey for the United States in 1999 after being accused of plotting to form an Islamic, has denied being involved in the investigation. [....]
=> January 6, 2014 (AFP/Reuters):
Turkey's Erdogan says he favors retrial of coup plot officers

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said he would not oppose the retrial of hundreds of military officers convicted of plotting a coup to overthrow the government a decade ago.

His comments come after the military last week filed a criminal complaint over the 2012-2013 trials, saying some of the evidence against officers had been fabricated.

"Our position on a retrial is a favorable one," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul late on Sunday evening.

"There is not a problem for us about retrials as long as the legal basis is established. In terms of regulations, we are ready to do what we can," he added.

In 2013, former army chief General Ilker Basbug was jailed for life and a large number of army officers, journalists and lawyers received other prison sentences for their role in the so-called "Ergenekon" conspiracy, an alleged plot to overthrow Erdogan's government.

And in 2012, more than 300 active and retired military officers were sentenced to prison terms after the court ruled that an army exercise in 2003, codenamed "Sledgehammer," was also an undercover coup plot against the government.

The mass trials are widely thought to have been masterminded by the powerful movement of Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled Muslim cleric living in the US state of Pennsylvania. [....]

But Erdogan's ruling AKP party has since become embroiled in a bitter feud with Gulen's Hizmet brotherhood over government plans to shut down its network of schools.

Erdogan's backers now accuse Gulen of orchestrating a probe into corruption within the government that has led to the resignation of three cabinet members and created a situation of political turmoil. Gulen denies any involvement with the scandal.

Erdogan claims the corruption investigation is a plot by internal and foreign enemies to topple his government, and has reacted by purging the police - which he once backed as a counterbalance to the military.

Media commentators have interpreted the latest moves to review the coup trials as a new de-facto alliance between Erdogan and the army against Gulen's movement. [....]
Interesting, if true. The repercussions could be wide-ranging. Then again, all this remains speculative. Stay tuned ...

—Jeff Weintraub