Burak BEKDİL The power struggle in Ankara has taken numerous shapes and names since 2002. The war, according to one of its sides, is between ‘Muslim democrats and secular fascists;' but, in a more realistic terminology, is between observant and secular Muslims since both warring sides consist of Muslim men – and not being observant would not take one out of Islam.During the AKP's first term in office, 2002-2007, the fighting – a kind of Turkish Cold War—featured rather low-intensity warfare. The election of Abdullah Gül as president and the constitutional amendments to liberalize the turban on campus marked a switch from low- to medium-intensity warfare, with the judiciary featuring itself as the principal weaponry in this new stage which Soner Cağaptay, a Washington-based analyst realistically summarizes in just three words: Turkey vs. Turkey.
Playing foul:
The three major battles in the medium-intensity warfare have been the turban case, the closure case against the AKP and what is publicly known as the Ergenekon case. Only one of the three emblematic battles has ended, with the other two navigating through different levels of firing. One of the battles, Ergenekon, has recently pushed the other into the background of the public domain, with spectacular visual (and contextual) material it provided viewers with. Ergenekon is important not only because of its content value but also because of the potential repercussions it may spark. It has the potential to determine the next battleground of the medium-intensity warfare. Ergenekon's prosecutors have been vigorously piling up evidence against an alleged gang of coup-makers. According to various press reports, the prosecutors will eventually produce an indictment with thousands of pages. What those ‘thousands of pages' will contain will be very critical. Here is why.We have already established that both warring sides have ‘assets' in various ranks of the judiciary. If the Ergenekon files contained material that would satisfy, by any objective criteria, an unbiased observer, we all can sigh with relief. If not, there will be a problem.Any documentation that would, by any objective criteria, give the image that one of the sides is foul playing via its assets in the judiciary, then we can expect disastrous outcomes. An unsatisfactory indictment has the potential to spark ‘proportionate retaliation' i.e. foul play via assets in the judiciary. You have your assets and you foul play and we have our assets and why should we not. That line summarizes the potentially explosive sentiment I have recently observed among the various ranks of the secular side of the division line. And that is just too dangerous.If Ergenekon produces a flimsy indictment, some other prosecutor, equipped with the same powers Ergenekon's prosecutors possess, could be tempted to produce a counter-Ergenekon case, this time featuring arrests and a never-ending indictment with innocent people being kept behind bars for several months. Secular Turks have one disadvantage, though. They do not possess the security (police and police intelligence) assets their ideological enemies possess. But anyone with even an elementary understanding of the Turkish judicial system can easily reach any distasteful conclusion based on the horrifying powers Turkish prosecutors may feature if they want to use them in ideological warfare.
For unbiased souls:
For example, a secular prosecutor full of resent and vengeance, may not easily find evidence against the AKP's front-line soldiers on charges of ‘forming a gang aiming to introduce Shariah,' but he can produce any flimsy evidence against any defendant on charges of any offense since probably no one is flawlessly innocent vis-à-vis the State. The Turkish legal practice can be very interesting when used for political purposes and be comfortably used for manipulation. Remember, you can fine someone who spits on the street, or alternatively, you can arrest him for ‘attempted murder by means of spitting on the face of a passer-by.' That's not the full risk. We have military courts too, and a conscription system. Any late conscript who is a front-line soldier in the allied Islamist army can have a difficult time during his service with never ending disciplinary charges and probably a never ending service itself. In short, there may be endless inventions of weaponry in this new phase of the War.I very much hope that the Ergenekon indictment will satisfy unbiased souls and minds. That way we shall not only be too happy to see that members of a coup network stand trial and face legal sanctions but also because the risk of foul retaliation via judicial assets would be minimal. I hope…