Sledgehammer (coup plan)
Reports of the alleged plot first surfaced in the liberal Taraf newspaper, which said it had discovered documents detailing plans to bomb two Istanbul mosques and accuse Greece of shooting down a Turkish plane over the Aegean Sea. The plan allegedly was to stir up chaos and justify a military coup.
On 21 February 2010 operations were carried out in nine provinces. 49 people were detained including admirals, generals and colonels, some of them retired. On 23 February six of them were released, but seven were arrested. Another five suspects were arrested on 24 February. Further detentions and arrests followed, but at the beginning of April 2010 the number of people in pre-trial detention had dropped to nine, while 35 arrested suspects had been released, including prime suspect retired general Çetin Doğan, who had been the commander of the First Army. On 31 March and 1 April, 28 suspects in the investigation were released. A judge released 19 of the suspects due to the “existence of serious doubt regarding the crime”. 9 others were released due to their “social standing.”
On 5 April 2010 an additional 95 people (including 86 military personnel, 70 of them on active duty), were detained in 14 provinces on the same day. 9 suspects released earlier were rearrested on 6 April. However, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, Aykut Cengiz Engin ordered the removal of prosecutors Mehmet Berk and Bilal Bayraktar from the probe as his order “any detention decision should not be taken without my approval” was not abided by. On 6 April Engin also replaced coordinating prosecutor of the investigation Süleyman Pehlivan with Mehmet Ergül.
In May and June 2011 another round of interrogations followed resulting in the arrest of 15 members of the Turkish Armed Forces. The arrests are based on documents reportedly seized in February from a house that belonged to Col. Hakan Buyuk’s son. The new evidence consists of written documents, video files and digital material on a flash disk, and includes plans to be put into action if the alleged coup attempt were to fail.
The trial started on 16 December 2010 with the first court hearing, held in the court house of Silivri Prison. The presiding judge, Ömer Diken, was appointed only two days earlier, after the previous presiding judge was removed because of an ongoing disciplinary investigation. 187 defendants were present. Nine defendants including retired General Ergin Saygun had not appeared. None of the defendants was in pre-trial detention.
On 20 February 2011 an additional indictment was forwarded to Istanbul Heavy Penal Court 10. It charged 28 defendants, 15 of them in pre-trial detention in connection with documents found at the home of Colonel Hakan Büyük’s son with “the attempt to remove the government of the Turkish Republic” and demanded sentences between 15 and 20 years' imprisonment. In case that the indictment is accepted the case may be merged with the main Sledgehammer (Balyoz) case in which 196 defendants are on trial.
On 29 July 2011 the court charged 22 suspects. On the same day the chief of the Turkish armed forces, Isik Kosaner, has resigned along with the army, navy and air force heads. Kosaner portrayed his resignation as a protest at the jailing of military officers. “It has become impossible for me to continue in this high office, because I am unable to fulfil my responsibility to protect the rights of my personnel as the chief of general staff,” Kosaner said. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the resignations and appointed Necdet Özel as the chief of the armed forces. The decision stamped the civilian authority on the country’s military, which has long regarded itself as a protector of Turkey’s secular traditions.“This is effectively the end of the military’s role in Turkish democracy,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist for the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet. “This is the symbolic moment where the first Turkish republic ends and the second republic begins.”
On 15 August 2011 Istanbul Heavy Penal Court 10 held the first hearing in the second Balyoz trial. 26 defendantsd were present, 21 of them in pre-trial detention. Prime suspect General Bilgin Balanlı read out a 4-page defence pleading not guilty. The demand to recuse the court was sent to Istanbul Heavy Penal Court 11. The hearing was adjourned to 3 October 2011.
In mid-November 2011 a third 264-page indictment was sent to Istanbul Heavy Penal Court 10, accusing 143 suspects, 66 of them in pre-trial detention with an attempt to overthrow the government. The prosecutor demanded to combine trial 1 and 2 with this case. After the cases 1 and 2 had been combined the number of defendants had increased to 244, 184 of them in pre-trial detention. Should this case also be merged the number of defendants will be 367.
Comments on the trial
When on 5 April 2011 the Court rejected the demands for release for the second time, the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces issued a press release. Reminding that the Turkish Armed Forces repeatedly informed on the seminars in question and the expert opinion the prosecutor’s office had demanded it was hard to understand why the court had ordered the continuation of pre-trial detention. Mehmet Ali Şahin, President of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, stated that the press release casts a doubt in the judiciary in Turkey. Deputy President of the AKP, Hüseyin Çelik called this an interference in an ongoing trial. US Ambassador to Ankara Francis J. Ricciardone stated that a transparent trial was expected and he tried to understand, how freedom of press could be discussed, when journalists were being arrested. Hüseyin Çelik called this an interference into internal affairs.
Dani Rodrik and Pinar Dogan, son-in-law and daughter of chief suspect Çetin Doğan, stated, “what lies behind the trials is an apparent effort to discredit the government’s opponents on the basis of the flimsiest evidence and often, far worse, by framing them with planted evidence and forged documents” in their personal blog page. Commenting on all investigations in the Ergenekon cases they alleged: the key evidence is typically produced by anonymous informants; they provide the “originals” of secret documents detailing criminal activities and these revelations are followed by selective leaks to the media about the “evidence”
Against this Fevzi Bilgin, Assistant Professor of Political Science, St. Mary’s College of Maryland held, “Mr. Rodnik’s interpretation and presentation of the case is neither unbiased nor genuinely informational. It is also a platform to internationalize the grievances of the current military establishment in Turkey and defame the current government as being religiously motivated.” In his opinion “It is rather likely that Sledgehammer was the first coup plan devised right after AKP’s victory in the parliamentary elections on November 3, 2002.”
On 16 January 2013 Mr. Orhan Aykut confessed to Aydinlik Newspaper that together with Mr. Ihsan Arslan (AKP Parlimanter of the time) they received a suitcase of real Balyoz Seminar documents from Mr. Iskender Pala (who was expelled from the Turkish Navy for not being secular) at Movenpick Hotel in Istanbul in 2007 and using these documents they had created fake evidences with a group of specialists in Ankara to be used in Balyoz Case. Details can be found in  (Turkish).
On 21 September 2012 Istanbul Heavy Penal Court announced its verdict. Some 300 of the 365 suspects were sentenced to prison terms, while 34 suspects were acquitted. Three retired generals were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment: Çetin Doğan (retired 1st Army Cmdr. General), İbrahim Fırtına (Air Force Cmdr. retired General) and Özden Örnek (retired Navy Cmdr. Adm.) on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force” but the terms were later reduced to 20 years' because of the “incomplete attempt at staging a coup”. In the case of 78 defendants the court commuted aggravated life imprisonment to 18 years' imprisonment. While 214 defendants received sentences of 16 years' imprisonment, one defendant was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. The court separated the case of three defendants and dropped charges for one defendant. Arrest warrants against 250 defendants in pre-trial detention were prolonged. In addition, six arrest warrants were issued against defendants attending the hearing and 69 decisions on apprehension were issued against defendants who had not come to the hearing.
- Balyoz Operation II: Squash Blossoms Article of Prof. Dr. Ihsan Bal, Director of USAK’s Center for Security Studies, published on 31 March 2010; accessed on 12 April 2011
- adı Balyoz in the daily Taraf of 20 January 2001 (original news in Turkish); accessed on 12 April 2011
- Sledgehammer releases shakes belief in impartial judiciary Sunday’s Zaman of 4 April 2010
- http://www.oldthinkernews.com/?p=2069 “Those measures included bombing two major mosques in Istanbul, an assault on a military museum by people disguised as religious extremists and the raising of tension with Greece through an attack on a Turkish plane that was to be blamed on the Aegean neighbor.”
- Şimdi de Balyoz Melih Aşık in Milliyet of 22 January 2010; accessed on 13 April 2011
- Turkey: Military chiefs resign en masse
- 'Hükümeti devirecek miydiniz?' Article in Radikal of 25 February 2010; accessed on 12 April 2011
- Çetin Doğan tahliye edildi Archives of Hürriyet of 1 April 2010; accessed on 12 April 2011
- Turkish Press Scan April 6th
- Sledgehammer leads to new judicial crisis in Turkey
- Two more officers arrested in Turkey’s 'Sledgehammer' probe NewsAz of 7 June 2011; accessed on 14 June 2011
- Selcan Hacaoğlu (December 16, 2010). "New Turkish coup trial begins". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 16, 2010.
- Balyoz davası gergin başladı in Hürriyet of 16.10.2010; accessed on 12.04.2011
- Balyoz'da 163 tutuklama, News Agency Dogan of 11.02.2011; accessed on 12.04.2011
- Balyoz’un duruşma salonu genişletildi Milliyet of 11.02.2011; accessed on 12.04.2011
- Bilvanis paşasına 20 yıl istendi daily Yeni Şafak of 21 June 2011, accessed on 21 June 2011
- Top Generals Quit in Group, Stunning Turks
- Daily Akşam of 16 August 2001; accessed on 16 August 2011
- CNN Türk of 9 November 2011: "3. Balyoz iddianamesi" mahkemede; accessed on 13 November 2011
- Press Release BA 05/11, published on the website of the Turkish Armed Force on 06.04.2011; accessed on 12.04.2011
- Şahin'den TSK'nın 'Balyoz' açıklamasına eleştiri CNN Türk of 07.04.2011; accessed on 12.04.2011
- Turkish Press Scan for Feb. 16 in Hürriyet Daily News of 16.02.2011; accessed on 12.04.2011
- Turkish Press Scan for Feb. 17 in Hürriyet Daily News of 17.02.2011; accessed on 12.04.2011
- Dani Rodrik is son-in-law of chief suspect Çetin Doğan, and a professor of international political economy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
- Pınar Doğan is daughter of chief suspect Çetin Doğan and a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
- Of the three sources mentioned in a separate article only the one from The New Republic, entitled “Turkey’s Other Dirty War” is available without subscription, dated 24 May 2010; accessed on 19 May 2011
- Sledgehammer (Balyoz): How Turkey Averted a Coup in 2003 Washington Review of July 2010; accessed on 19 May 2011
- Pınar Doğan and Dani Rodrik’s blog- How many different ways can you say “forgery”
- Hürriyet Daily News of 21 September 2012; accessed on 22 September 2012
- See the monthly report of the Democratic Turkey Forum (DTF) in German for September 2012 or as detailed article in the daily Radikal of 21 September 2012; both accessed on 22 September 2012
- The Truth About The Seldgehammer Case
- the webpage of the families of Sledgehammer Defendants
- Turkey, Ergenekon, and Sledgehammer Plan
- BBC:Top Turkish officers charged over "coup plot"
- SONER CAGAPTAY What’s Really Behind Turkey’s Coup Arrests?
- Website in English and Turkish; providing original documents such as the indictments as well as news and comments]
- Moscow Show Trial on the Bosphorus
- THE SNAKE THAT DOESN’T TOUCH ME: TURKEY’S SPECIAL AUTHORITY COURTS
- Turkey’s jailed Journalists
- The Deep State