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The Power of Law vs. the Power of Arms: The Turkish Judiciary’s Test with the Coup

Thousands of judges and prosecutors in Turkey risked their lives to inquire into the activities of an armed group and defended the law against them. The Turkish judiciary has been determined to protect the democratic constitutional state since the night of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Even during the early hours of the coup attempt, when nobody yet knew whether it would be successful, the Turkish judiciary showed the courage to initiate investigations against the coup-plotters. Since then, the judiciary has spent utmost effort to ensure the conduct and conclusion of the proceedings in a fair manner. This paper will shed light on the judicial process during the post-coup attempt period.

The Power of Law vs the Power of Arms The
Defendants arrive for their trial accompanied with gendarmerie commandos of Sincan Penal Institution at Ankara 4th Heavy Penal Court in Ankara, Turkey on August 1, 2017.Mustafa Kamacı/AA Photos
 

The Fetullah Terror Organization (FETÖ),1 which used to be seen as a civilian religious formation for many years before being recognized as a terrorist organization by the judicial verdict, had taken an overt position in the Turkish political struggle in the period leading up to the coup attempt. Having openly supported the opposition bloc in the June 7, 2015 general elections, the organization hoped that the pressure on it would diminish with the election results. However, the political picture which emerged with the AK Party’s (Justice and Development Party) landslide victory in the following early elections on November 1, 2015 produced a shock effect on the Gülenist organization. The fact that the AK Party would govern the country for another four years was a total nightmare for the Gülenists. The strengthening of the political will which had already been conducting the struggle against the organization –particularly for the preceding two years– signaled that a stronger push would continue for another four years. That could lead to an irreversible weakening of the organization and eventually its elimination.

With a renewed and far-reaching vigor, the AK Party, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seemed determined to strike one final blow to the organization. The focus of the struggle has changed from the companies owned by the organization and its civilian-facade structures to discharging its cadres from the state, especially the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). Preparations for the Supreme Military Council2 in 2016 began in January, and were conducted meticulously based on information from diverse intelligence sources and the participation of many public institutions.

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