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.


Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

Updated 11 min 26 sec ago
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Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced the former speaker of parliament, Setya Novanto, to 15 years in jail for his role in causing state losses of around $170 million, linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.
The case has shocked Indonesians, already used to large corruption scandals and has reinforced a widely held perception that their parliament, long regarded as riddled with corruption, is a failing institution.
“The defendant is found guilty of conspiring to commit corruption and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 500 million rupiah,” Yanto, the head of a panel of five judges, told the Jakarta court. The fine is equivalent to $36,000.
Novanto would be barred from holding public office for five years after serving his sentence and have to repay $7.3 million he was accused of plundering, added the judge, who goes by one name.
In a session that ran for more than three hours, judges read out dozens of case notes, including descriptions of where the former speaker held meetings to divvy up cash made from a mark-up on a contract for the identity card.
Novanto showed little emotion as the judge read the verdict.
After a quick consultation with his legal team, he told the court he would take some time to consider whether to appeal the sentence.
Novanto is accused of orchestrating a scheme to steal $173 million, or almost 40 percent of the entire budget for a government contract for the national identity card.
Prosecutors, who had questioned 80 witnesses in the case, had sought a jail term of at least 16 years for the former speaker.
Novanto, who had been implicated in five graft scandals since the 1990s but never convicted, was detained by investigators last November after repeatedly missing summonses for questioning over the case, saying he needed heart surgery.
Indonesians have to contend with high levels of graft in many areas of their lives and the country placed 96th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index last year, on par with Colombia and Thailand.