The Sledgehammer Facts

Although the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) trial, in which the defendants stood accused of attempting to overthrow the democratically elected government in 2003, was concluded on Sept. 21 by the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court at the 108th hearing of the case, debates surrounding the Sledgehammer trial still continue. This is why there is merit in summarizing the major developments in the case.
But I would first like to touch upon two important points: First, we see that the court’s decision concerning the sentences of the defendants (especially the low-ranking officers) varies from person to person and is not consistent. The second is that the intricate background of the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup plan is linked to many other coup attempts. The journals kept by Özden Örnek and Mustafa Balbay, the Ergenekon terrorist organization, the Council of State attack, the murder of Hrant Dink, the murder of Christian missionaries at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya, the murder of priest Andrea Santoro in Trabzon, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) reports, the statements of the General Staff and the content of documents found under the floor tiles at the Gölcük Naval Base are the major building blocks of this background. It is possible that this picture had an impact on the court’s decision but we need to underline that the picture is “real” and that these are not individual incidents. Now let’s turn to the Sledgehammer facts.

1) In early 2003, a seminar was held at the 1st Army Headquarters and the participants staged a war game. However, the content of the seminar was changed and the participants focused on a plan to eliminate internal enemies under the pretext of external threats. (The prosecutor claimed that the seminar was held without permission from the Land Forces Command, and low-ranking officials provided incomplete or incorrect information to their superiors. On the other hand, the defense lawyers claimed that although the content of the seminar was not approved by defendants’ superiors in the first place, the report on the details of the seminar was prepared and presented by their clients to their superiors.)

2) After the exposure of the Ergenekon terrorist organization, 19 CDs containing voice recordings of the seminar were leaked to the press. The CDs numbered 11, 16 and 17 list the strategies to be used for provocations and sabotage and the names of the officials tasked with these jobs. The other CDs do not contain this kind of information. The prosecutor claimed that these are the documents which were not discussed but used as presentation material during the seminar. They also added that these lists could not have been prepared without the permission of the officials mentioned in the lists. While some of the defense lawyers claimed the low-ranking officials were not sufficiently informed about the plans of their superiors, others have argued that all these documents are fabricated.

Of course these two things affected the court’s decision concerning the case, but they were not the real matter of controversy.

3) Many of the CDs contain information which was added to CDs later on, such as the names of foundations and companies established after 2003. (While the prosecutor claimed that the coup plotters might have updated the information on the CDs, the defense said that this was evidence of a fairly comprehensive plot against the defendants.)

4) There were some anachronisms in the documents which were deemed reliable by the prosecutor. (The prosecutor said that the same anachronisms in the 2003 documents also exist in the other documents described as criminal and that this situation also explains inconsistencies found in other documents. Claiming that these anachronisms are a result of human error, defense lawyers demanded they be separated from the previous documents.) Actually, this observation indicated that the documents were changed, but there was much debate surrounding who changed them. But in the meantime, something unexpected happened.

5) The same documents were on a hard drive which was found hidden under the floor tiles of the Gölcük Naval Command. The password of some of the documents on disc No. 5 from Gölcük was the same as the one for the computer of the major who was in charge of the secret cache in Gölcük. (The prosecutor considered it conformation of the coup plans, but the defense lawyers described it as part of a fairly comprehensive plot against their clients.)

This development supported the claims of the prosecutor because the documents in Gölcük were found in a storage area in the counter-intelligence section of the naval base, where security was very tight, and there was a major who was in charge of the secret cache in Gölcük and had access to many documents. The defense lawyers claimed that security was not very tight in the counter-intelligence section of the naval base and that anyone who had access to the hard disk could have forged any document.

The assumption of the defense lawyers can be considered an option, but they do not have even a single piece of evidence identifying those who planned the conspiracy against the military. This claim is based on the presumptions of the defense. On the other hand, there is the intricate background, a seminar whose content has been changed and computers assigned to specific officials. As for the anachronisms, unfortunately, they do not indicate a conspiracy against the military. They could be human error, as Çetin Doğan’s son-in-law, Dani Rodrik, has claimed, or the efforts of some coup plotters who are attempting to pervert judicial processes.

Now you decide which is more convincing. Is the Sledgehammer plan a conspiracy against the military or a coup attempt prepared by the military?

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