A Turkish court sentenced more than 300 military officers to jail on Friday for plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan almost a decade ago, ending a trial that underscored civilian dominance over the once all-powerful military…Two retired generals and a retired admiral considered the ringleaders of the so-called “Sledgehammer” plot to topple Erdogan in 2003 were given life terms. […]The “Sledgehammer” conspiracy is alleged to have included plans to bomb historic mosques in Istanbul and trigger conflict with Greece to pave the way for an army takeover.Prosecutors had demanded 15 to 20-year jail sentences for the 365 defendants, 364 of whom were serving or retired officers. […]
The case and others like it have prompted rights groups to accuse the Erdogan government of authoritarianism and using a heavy hand to silence its critics. There are currently 94 journalists in prison in Turkey, more than in China and Iran combined.
Sledgehammer is one of a series of trials that has sparked criticism that the government is using the courts to silence political opponents.Others include the “Ergenekon” case, which involves a web of alleged plots against Turkey’s government.Thousands of people, including journalists, lawyers and politicians, are in jail pending verdicts in trials that human rights groups say raise questions about Turkey’s commitment to democratic rights.
Remember that Turkey is the model for many countries in the Middle East, especially in the post-Arab Spring world, that want to somehow combine Islam, capitalism, and democracy in a functioning government. Those countries should remember that Turkey is not without its problems. Despite delivering decent economic growth and for the most part maintaining peace and prosperity, Erdogan’s government looks more and more like a dictator, silencing its critics, waging war on a certain group of citizens (Kurds), and jailing those who might threaten his hold on power.