Turkey has just held show trials that bear comparison to the judicial monstrosities staged in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Three hundred senior military officers, some serving and some retired, have been handed long prison sentences. They have been accused of belonging to a terrorist organization called Ergenekon that back in 2003 was plotting the overthrow of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The trials began in 2007. They are a disgrace. The plotters are alleged to have been intending to bomb mosques, shoot down a Turkish military aircraft and other improbabilities of the sort. The “evidence” offered by the prosecution is full of anachronisms, forgeries and other evident fabrications. The defense was not permitted to call witnesses in a position to expose the nonsense.
It is true that the military have staged coups in the recent Turkish past, not in their own interest but to preserve the secular modernizing state that replaced the old Ottoman Empire. Erdogan can now be seen to have taken the major strategic decision to re-align the country as an Islamist state. To that end, he had to neutralize the army. He could never have obtained 20-year prison sentences for innocent officers unless he had already purged the judiciary and installed Islamist yes-men. Similarly the media. Turkey is the country with the highest number of journalists in prison.
The balance of power is shifting again against the West. Turkey has renounced its status as a democracy. Suspecting that membership of the European Union was more and more probable, Turkey is instead choosing to become the leader of Sunni Islamism. Opposition to Shiite Iran and its Syrian protectorate follows, although just a short while ago Erdogan was supporting them whole-heartedly and claiming to have zero problems with neighbors. The new Islamism demands rupture with Israel and identification with Hamas.
President Obama is happy to tell everyone that he is in the habit of telephoning Erdogan frequently. He does not denounce the show trials and seems unaware that his chat-line friend in Ankara has changed.