ISTANBUL: BaÅbuÄ’s release a sign of changing balances

Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
March 8 2014

BaÅ?buÄ?’s release a sign of changing balances

A local court ordered the release of Turkey’s former Chief of General
Staff Ä°lker BaÅ?buÄ? on March 7.

The ruling follows a decision by the Constitutional Court a day
before, which stated that BaÅ?buÄ?’s rights were violated by arresting
him in the first place.

BaÅ?buÄ? was sentenced to life by a Specially Authorized Istanbul
Criminal Court in 2013 for `establishing a terrorist organization’ in
order to topple the government of Prime Minister Tayyip ErdoÄ?an.

He was actually ErdoÄ?an’s land forces commander from 2006 to 2008 and
chief of staff from 2008 to 2011, and was accused by prosecutors of
forming a plot to overthrow the government. He was first asked to
testify as a witness but was then arrested as a suspect on Jan. 6,

ErdoÄ?an objected to the arrest of BaÅ?buÄ?, saying the latter could be
tried but he did not believe that there was any reason to keep him
under arrest.

The arrest was actually one of the first open indicators of the coming
confrontation between ErdoÄ?an and Fethullah Gülen, the moderate
Islamist scholar living in the U.S. with a global network of
sympathizers. Gülen was actually a close ally of ErdoÄ?an during the
investigations and trials in order to clear the way against the
military, the secular establishment, and the Kurds.

The prime minister got his second alert when the same group of
prosecutors sought to interrogate Hakan Fidan, ErdoÄ?an’s intelligence
chief, on Feb. 7, 2012. It was then that the confrontation really
started. But the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe made the conflict public
and ErdoÄ?an openly denounced the prosecutors, judges and policemen
involved as Gülenists attempting a coup against his government.
BaÅ?buÄ? has denied all charges against him from day one, but his
complaints started to be taken seriously by the government only after
the Dec. 17 graft probe. BaÅ?buÄ?’s release was made possible after the
new law that introduced more political influence on the appointment of
judges and prosecutors, and the abolition of Specially Authorized
Courts (Ã-YM). The abolition of those courts was something that
opposition parties have been demanding for years, but ErdoÄ?an only
decided to abolish them after he believed they were infiltrated by

By coincidence or not, President Abdullah Gül approved and put into
effect the law to abolish the Ã-YMs at almost the same time as the
Constitutional Court decided that there had been rights violations. As
a result, the release request file was sent to a local criminal court
instead of an Ã-YM, as BaÅ?buÄ?’s lawyers believe the latter insisted on
the first decision not to release him.

The March 7 release is likely to affect the fate of many other
prisoners, which is not likely to make everyone happy.

For example, hours before BaÅ?buÄ?, Erhan Tuncel, an accomplice in the
murder of Hrant Dink, an Armenian-origin Turkish journalist, was also

Ironically, the releases were made possible by the new political
atmosphere, in which former allies ErdoÄ?an and Gülen are in a fierce
fight. This new atmosphere seems like it will have further effects on
political life as Turkey heads for critical local elections on March


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