Turkish coup case cast in limbo by lawyers’ boycott

Updated 16 June 2012
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Turkish coup case cast in limbo by lawyers’ boycott

SILIVRI, Turkey: The trial of hundreds of Turkish military officers charged with plotting to overthrow the government was cast into limbo on Friday when the court referred the case to the prosecutor’s office to break a deadlock caused by a defense lawyers’ boycott.
The judges’ move, raising the possibility of the case being transferred to another court, fueled uncertainty over what may happen to other coup conspiracy trials that have dragged on for years with hundreds of defendants kept in jail without conviction.
The prosecutor’s office could return the case to the court in Silivri, on the northern shore of the Sea of Marmara, in which case the next hearing will be on August 6. But the appeals court could rule that another court should hear the case. Either way, the trial is set to continue for some time.
Prosecutors have demanded 15-20 year jail sentences for the 364 serving and retired officers in the “Sledgehammer” case, which revolves around a 2003 military seminar that prosecutors say was part of a conspiracy to unseat Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
The plot allegedly included plans to bomb historic mosques in Istanbul and trigger conflict with Greece to pave the way for an army takeover. Defendants say the prosecution documents were part of a war game scenario and that other documents are fake.
“The judges decided unanimously to send the case to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office in order to ask for the institution’s opinion on the transfer of the case to another court,” Chief Judge Omer Diken told the court.
Defense lawyers have boycotted closing stages of the trial because of the judges’ refusal to hear testimony from expert witnesses aimed at rebutting evidence allegedly gleaned from confiscated computer files.
The defense says forensic tests of CDs presented as prosecution evidence showed they could not have been produced before 2007, four years after the alleged coup plot, but the court refused to take those tests into consideration.
PROSECUTOR SAYS TRIAL DEADLOCKED
The judge’s move was in line with an appeal made by prosecutor Huseyin Kaplan to the court earlier in the day.
“The defense lawyers have been trying to prevent the court from reaching a verdict as they have understood that the verdict will be against their clients - and thus they are trying to extend the trial period,” Kaplan said.
“It is obvious that the trials cannot continue under these circumstances,” he added.
Some 250 of the defendants are already in jail pending a verdict in the plot, allegedly hatched a year after Erdogan, a politician with an Islamist background, was first elected, stirring secularist fears that he would push a religious agenda.
The defendants, including number one suspect retired General Cetin Dogan, deny the accusations and view them as an insult to the military which once intervened regularly in politics, but which has seen its power curtailed by Erdogan’s government.
The “Sledgehammer” case has run parallel with a sprawling five-year investigation of alleged secularist plots to overthrow the government by a nationalist network known as “Ergenekon.”
Military officers are also among the hundreds of people, including academics and journalists placed under lengthy pre-trial detention on suspicion of ties to Ergenekon.
Public enthusiasm for the judiciary’s moves against the alleged plotters has waned in recent years amid growing suspicion in some quarters that the investigations were being used to stifle political dissent.
Since Erdogan first came to power secularist critics have accused him of having a secret Islamist agenda. Erdogan, whose AK Party embraces nationalists and center-right elements as well as religious conservatives, rejects the accusations.
The armed forces have toppled four governments since 1960, three through outright coups. In 1997 the military pressured Turkey’s first Islamist-led government to quit and subsequently banned the ruling party, which Erdogan had belonged to before founding the AKP.


Rights court dismisses Breivik’s complaint about jail conditions

Breivik is serving a 21-year sentence for the July 2011 massacre of 77 people. (Lise Aaserud via Reuters)
Updated 8 min 17 sec ago
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Rights court dismisses Breivik’s complaint about jail conditions

  • Norwegian officials have repeatedly rejected allegations that Breivik is isolated, arguing that he is treated as a “VIP prisoner” and has regular contact with prison staff, his lawyer and visitors
  • Breivik has the use of three cells, each measuring more than 10 square meters and equipped with a television, computer, DVD player and gym gear

STRASBOURG: The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday dismissed a complaint by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik over his prison conditions, ending a long-running saga that kept him in the public eye, tormenting his victims.
Breivik is serving a 21-year sentence for the July 2011 massacre of 77 people, most of them teenagers gunned down while attending a Labour Party youth camp on the small island of Utoeya.
The far-right, anti-Islam extremist took his case to the ECHR after Norway’s Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal last year against a ruling that his near-isolation in a three-room cell respected his human rights.
His lawyer argued that the prison conditions breached articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the former prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment, the latter guarantees a right to privacy and family life.
“His state (of mind) is deteriorating,” his lawyer Oystein Storrvik told AFP. “He is no longer able to study for example.”
But the court based in Strasbourg said that “its examination of the case did not reveal any violations of the Convention, and rejected the application as inadmissible for being manifestly ill-founded.”
Norwegian officials have repeatedly rejected allegations that Breivik is isolated, arguing that he is treated as a “VIP prisoner” and has regular contact with prison staff, his lawyer and visitors.
He has the use of three cells, each measuring more than 10 square meters and equipped with a television, computer, DVD player and gym gear. He has no Internet connection, however.
Survivors of the Utoeya massacre expressed satisfaction at the ruling.
“It’s a relief. We’re hoping not to hear his name again for many years to come,” Lisbeth Kristine Royneland, the head of a victims’ support group whose 18-year-old daughter was killed by Breivik, told AFP.
Writing on Twitter, a survivor of the massacre, Tore Remi Christensen, wrote: “The Breivik case is rejected in Strasbourg. Delighted. May he and all those who share his shitty message rot in hell.”
Breivik’s killing spree began on July 22, 2011, when he set off a bomb outside a government building in Oslo, killing eight people.
Disguised as a police officer and armed with a semi-automatic rifle and pistol, he then went to Utoya where the Labour Party was holding a youth camp, killing 69.
During his trial the extremist, who has changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen, repeatedly addressed the courts with Nazi salutes and complained about the cold coffee and frozen meals served in prison, among other things.
His sentence can be extended indefinitely if judges determine he remains a threat to society.