Turkish court rejects requests to release chief Ergenekon suspects
Turkish court has rejected requests to release 65 jailed suspects who stand trial in the Ergenekon coup investigation, including Turkey’s ex-army chief and other chief defendants.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court released suspects Hayrettin Ertekin, Muzaffer Şenocak and Bora Ballı pending trial. Their release was made possible as a result of the third judicial reform package the Parliament endorsed last month.

The court, however, rejected the release of former Turkish Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ along with other 64 Ergenekon suspects.

The court rejected requests of lawyers of chief Ergenekon suspects including deputies of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Mehmet Haberal and Mustafa Balbay for release. Hurşit Tolon, Şener Eruygur, Levent Ersöz, Doğu Perinçek, İbrahim Şahin and Tuncay Özkan were also among the suspects whose requests for release were rejected.

Balbay and Haberal face coup charges in the Ergenekon coup investigation. These deputies were elected to Parliament in last year's general elections, and their nomination to run for Parliament led to widespread controversy as they were in jail at the time.

Lawyers of the Ergenekon suspects claim that the newly endorsed reform package allows the suspects to be released from jails pending trial.

The third judicial reform package, which was adopted in Parliament earlier this week, curtailed the powers of Turkey’s courts.

Specially authorized courts dealing with coup and terror cases were abolished and replaced with regional terrorism courts as a result of the new reform package. The package said special courts will continue to oversee existing coup and terror cases until a final verdict is reached. Some of the cases currently being heard by special courts include Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of plotting to overthrow the government, Balyoz (Sledgehammer), a suspected coup plot believed to have been devised in 2003 with the aim of unseating the government through violent acts, and the Kurdish Communities’ Union (KCK), an urban branch of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Another suspect who wishes to be released from prison pending trial thanks to the new reform package is Başbuğ. The ex-military chief’s lawyer asked the İstanbul high criminal court to set his client free. But the court also rejected his lawyer’s request for release.

Gen. Başbuğ, who retired in 2010, is the highest-ranking military officer to be caught up in a probe into the Ergenekon group. He is a prime suspect in an investigation into an alleged Internet campaign to discredit the governing AK Party, and he is facing charges of leadership of an illegal organization.

There were earlier concerns among Turkey’s jurists that the reform package would result in severe results in Turkey, reversing democratic achievements. They also said hundreds of gang members, drug traffickers and terrorists and terror suspects might be released under the new package. Several government authorities, however, refuted jurists’ claims, saying that the reform package would not pave the way for the release of these suspects. Yet, the existing situation suggests the contrary.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu lashed out at the rulings of the court, describing the Silivri prison where Ergenekon suspects, including CHP deputies, are being kept, as "concentration camp.” He claimed that he reiterated many times that justice won’t be delivered in Silivri and that judges there belong to the ruling party not to people.

On the government’s side, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ declined to comment on the court decision. "It is court’s decision. We have nothing to say,” Bozdağ said in an assessment of the court’s decision to reject the requests of CHP deputies for release. The AK Party has long stood opposed to the release of jailed deputies from prison, but gave the green light for the releases after the adoption of the third judicial reform package in Parliament.

Jurists say the new judicial reform package could lead to the release of nearly 800 suspects who are currently under arrest on accusations of organized crime, terror, drug trafficking and crimes against the constitutional order. In the case of such releases, a number of subversive plans to save the suspects will have been accomplished.
Last Modified: 2012-07-28 11:50:30
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