Turkey To Try Coup Suspects Behind Closed Doors

People chant slogans during a pro-government rally in central Istanbul's Taksim square. Photo: AP

The Turkish government is pushing to investigate the failed coup attempt on July 15 behind closed doors, raising suspicions over transparency and drawing criticism from the opposition.

The historic trial of coup plotters will contain mostly closed sessions, a move that will likely block public access to hearings and will fuel concerns over the fair trial and due process.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) pressed for a demand that trials should be open to the public, and even suggested for live TV broadcast of hearings so that people could learn who the plotters were in the abortive coup attempt on July 15.

The government, which has been governing the country with decrees that have full force of law during emergency rule since July, is introducing a blanket measure. According to the decree, hearings would be transferred to another city without a court decision and indictments will not be read entirely during a trial session. This addendum fuels suspicion that the AKP is uneasy with publicity of an open trial.

If an army officer is jailed pending trial on charges of taking part in the coup attempt in Ankara may be transferred to another city without a court decision, according to the addendum.

Former prosecutor and CHP member Ali Özgündüz interpreted the move as an attempt by the government to conceal what will be going on during these sessions. He argued that the AKP tries “to hide something” during the trials and that lack of transparency would harm the legitimacy of coup trials.

The bloody coup attempt left hundreds of people killed and more than 2,000 wounded. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decisively pushed back putschists with the popular backing of masses and the police. What followed since then sow seeds of political and social mayhem as the government used the emergency rule to crack down on enemies — real and imagined — and opponents of all political creed.

The epic scale of purges in the bureaucracy left a deeply fractured army, a paralyzed police department and a wounded judicial system whose independence is now a dead letter after dismissal and arrests of 3,500 judges and prosecutors.

The government pursuit of coup plotters has met with renewed suspicion and criticism. The process is believed to be dogged by claims of spiced-up evidence and other discrepancies given the use of torture and other tools like threatening families as means to extricate whatever needed testimonies. Apart from public shreds of evidence of army officers’ participation in the coup, the government links all post-coup arrests to the plot, a charge many finds as too vague and broad, and hard to be substantiated.

More than 100,000 public officials have been dismissed, 70,000 people detained and 32,000 arrested over links to the coup. The grand scale of post-coup crackdown provides a legitimate base for critics that Erdogan also launched his counter-coup to reshape the state mechanism in his own image.