Friday, 12 August 2011

A system so poisoned that facts carry little currency

It is not surprising that a smell of corruption should hang over one of the most important trials in Turkish history. For decades the country’s court system has been used as a weapon of the Establishment to bludgeon its perceived enemies.

For many, it is poetic justice that a military that long wielded that weapon is now falling victim to it. It was, after all, the army that oversaw the show trial and execution in 1961 of Adnan Menderes, Turkey’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. But the Sledgehammer case is significant not only for the 195 soldiers on trial.

The investigation into the alleged coup plot has played an important role in the Islamist-rooted Government’s victory in its long power struggle with the army.

The generals have cast a shadow over the country’s politics since the soldier-statesman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey in 1923. Their ousting from the political sphere has been widely celebrated as a milestone in Turkish democracy.

However, worrying signs of judicial and police corruption, as well as the persecution of those who seek to highlight it, puts this in doubt. There are also fears surrounding what many regard as the growing authoritarianism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister.
Despite EU-backed constitutional amendments last year, which some fear have handed his party control of the justice system, there is little talk of root and branch reform.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people, including journalists and academics, have been imprisoned as part of another sprawling investigation into an alleged criminal network. Critics claim that it is stifling dissent.

Perhaps most depressingly, the fabrications in the Sledgehammer case reveal the rampant culture of disinformation that has poisoned Turkish public discourse for decades. Facts are so willingly faked that they carry little currency.

Army officers may well have been planning a coup in 2003 but, thanks to doctored evidence, we may never know for sure. The defendants will likely remain for ever guilty to their enemies, and for ever innocent in the eyes of their defenders.
Source: The Times (£)

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