The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.

LAST MINUTE SURPRISE IN BALYOZ (SLEDGEHAMMER) CASE

High Council of Judges and Prosecutors removed the chairman of the Istanbul 10th punishment court, who had authority in the sledgehammer case, just two days before the first hearing.

One hundred ninety six retired and active-duty officers, including four-star admirals and generals, will testify tomorrow in "Sledgehammer" case as suspects.

A lawyer of the former 1st army commander Cetin Dogan said: "I do not believe this. The judge was working on the case for 4 months and read about 140 thick files and now he has been removed. We've returned to the beginning. The new judge needs time to examine the accusations."

http://haber.gazetevatan.com/balyozda-son-dakika-surprizi/346616/1/Gundem

CRITICAL SUMMIT AT DEMIREL'S RESIDENCE

Husamettin Cindoruk and Mesut Yilmaz gathered together at 9th President Demirel's residence before the crucial general assembly of Democrat Party. After the two-hour long meeting, both leaders declared that they discussed the problems of the "center-right movement" and they both said they will not be running for the chairmanship in coming general assembly of the Democrat Party.

http://haber.gazetevatan.com/demirelin-evinde-kritik-zirve/346664/9/Siyaset

PROTEST TO ERDOGAN AT THE MIDDLE EAST TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY

Some students protested Prime Minister Erdogan and other ministers who were attending the 22nd annual conference of High Council of Science and Technology at the Middle East Technical University. Students who blocked to enter the auditorium said: "we can not go in the hall in our university." Police forces took into custody the students protesting the AKP and PM Erdogan.

http://haber.gazetevatan.com/erdogana-odtude-protesto/346770/1/Gundem

ENERGY SUMMIT WITH RUSSIA

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Ivanovich Sechin will arrive in Istanbul today to discuss energy projects. Russian Energy Minister Sergey Ivanovich Shmatko will accompany Sechin during his visit to Turkey. The nuclear power plant, that will be constructed in the southern province of Mersin, the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline and natural gas will top the agenda during meetings between Turkish and Russian officials.

http://www.sabah.com.tr/Ekonomi/2010/12/15/samsunceyhanda_muzakereler_martta_tamamlanir#

FINAL DECISION

The final decision on the purchase of Sikorsky and Agusta helicopters to be used in nine units of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will be made on Wednesday during the meeting of the defense industry to be chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The project will cost 4 billion U.S. dollars.

http://yenisafak.com.tr/Gundem/?t=15.12.2010&i=292701

MİLLİYET TAPPED

Former Police Department deputy head Emin Arslan, who earlier claimed that justice had been deceived as a result of several wire-tapping activities, delivered a similar statement to the public prosecutor. Arslan testified as a witness yesterday as part of the investigation on the murder of journalist Hrant Dink. In his deposition to the prosecutor, Arslan reiterated his previous allegation that "the telephone switchboard of Milliyet daily had been illegally tapped."

http://www.milliyet.com.tr/milliyet-santrali-boyle-dinlendi/guncel/haberdetay/15.12.2010/1326469/default.htm

ECHR RULES AGAINST TURKEY IN PARTY CLOSURE CASE

Europe's top human rights court on Tuesday convicted Turkey for shutting down People's Democracy Party back in 2003, ruling that the country violated the freedom of assembly and organization. The court also ordered Turkey to pay 24,000 euros to the party's former secretary-general, Turan Demir.

http://www.milliyet.com.tr/hadep-kapatilmamaliydi/siyaset/haberdetay/15.12.2010/1326464/default.htm

TURKEY GEARS UP FOR LANDMARK COUP TRIAL

Some 200 soldiers, among them senior commanders, go on trial Thursday in a landmark case in Turkish history to answer charges of a 2003 plot to topple the Islamist-rooted government.

The probe has marked the toughest action so far against the once-omnipotent Turkish army, which has unseated four governments since 1960 but has seen its clout wane under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Marred by serious doubts over the authenticity of some documents that the prosecutors rely on, the case has fuelled political tensions and deepened mistrust between the staunchly secularist military and the AKP, the offshoot of a banned Islamist movement.

For supporters, the probe is a long-due push to force the generals out of politics and under civilian control, while opponents say it is a deliberate campaign to disable the army and remove a major stumbling block for AKP ambitions to Islamize Turkey.

The 196 suspects risk 15 to 20 years in jail for "attempting to overthrow the government or prevent it from carrying out its duties through the use of force and violence." They include both serving and retired officers, among them acting generals and admirals as well as the ex-chiefs of the navy and the air force.

The prosecution argues the coup plan, codenamed "Operation Sledgehammer," was drawn up and discussed at the First Army base in Istanbul shortly after the AKP came to power in November 2002 amid fears it would undermine the secular system. It says the suspects planned to "pave the way for a military takeover by plunging the country into chaos and unrest" and singles out the First Army's then commander, retired general Cetin Dogan, as the mastermind.

The soldiers allegedly plotted to carry out false-flag bomb attacks on two Istanbul mosques and down a Turkish jet over the Aegean to provoke tensions with Greece, hoping to discredit the AKP and garner public support for a coup. Following the coup, the army would take over key posts and set up a "national consensus government" that would eventually hold elections, according to the indictment.

Dogan has denied the charges, arguing that papers from a seminar on a contingency plan based on a scenario of tensions with Greece and Islamist unrest at home have been doctored to look like a coup plan. The seminar, held in March 2003 at the First Army base in Istanbul, was attended by officers serving in the city and neighboring regions.

The plot was first reported in January by the Taraf newspaper, which said that an anonymous source had brought the documents -- papers, CDs and audio tapes -- in a suitcase. The daily, which routinely targets the military, handed over the documents to prosecutors, prompting a large-scale police operation in February. The audio tapes reportedly reveal that soldiers who attended the seminar spoke of a growing Islamist threat and discussed martial law and a new government, issues not supposed to be on the agenda of the gathering.

But analysts have cast doubt on other evidence, especially a series of anachronistic expressions in some papers, suggesting that some documents may be an outright fabrication. In one striking example, a colonel accused of having attended the seminar has said he was on an overseas duty at the time and that his middle name that appears in the papers was not officially registered until 2007.

Critics point also at a list of entities the coup plotters planned to control, including associations and hospitals that either did not exist or had different names in 2003. Some have questioned how the officers could have planned a coup with army units based only in the Istanbul region.

Dozens of suspects, among them soldiers, academics and journalists, are already on trial as part of a separate probe into a purported secularist network accused of having planned bombings and assassinations to destabilize the AKP and prompt a military coup.

http://en.cumhuriyet.com/?hn=199554

EURO COURT SAYS TURKEY'S CLOSURE OF PRO-KURDISH HADEP 'NOT JUSTIFIED'

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that a 2003 decision by Turkey's top court to ban the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP), violated the rights of freedom of assembly and association.

In March 2003, the Turkish Constitutional Court disbanded HADEP and banned several of its members from politics for five years for "spreading terrorist propaganda" and aiding and abetting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

In its decision released Tuesday, the European court said the Constitutional Court violated Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights in its decision to dissolve the party. The court also ordered Turkey to pay former HADEP Secretary-General Turan Demir 24,000 euros, plus 2,200 euros for legal expenses.

The European court ruled that members of HADEP "did not incite hatred, revenge, recrimination or armed resistance" by referring to the ongoing conflict between the Turkish military and the PKK as a "dirty war."

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

The ruling, which is subject to appeal to the court's Grand Chamber, also noted HADEP's stated purpose of advocating "a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem."

"Even if HADEP advocated the right to self-determination for the Kurds, that would not in itself be contrary to democratic principles and could not be equated with supporting acts of terrorism," the statement read.

HADEP's closure in 2003 was part of a wave of pro-Kurdish party closures since the PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in the 1980s. Most recently, the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was shuttered in December 2009 for links to the PKK.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=euro-court-says-turkeys-closure-of-pro-kurdish-hadep-not-justified-2010-12-14

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