An Istanbul court refused to release arrested journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, as well as 12 other suspects, in the first hearing of an alleged coup plot case Monday.
Fourteen suspects, including journalists Şık, Şener and Soner Yalçın, the owner of the dissident online news portal Oda TV, are accused of ties to Ergenekon, an alleged ultranationalist gang accused of plotting to overthrow the government. The 14 appeared before Istanbul's 16th High Criminal Court on their 265th day of arrest, prompting anger from colleagues and representatives from local and international journalistic organizations at the slow pace of the legal process.
Philippe Leruth from the European Federation of Journalists, or EFJ, highlighted the importance of support during a protest in front of the courthouse.
"Everybody has to understand that if there are concerns about press freedom, it means democracy is in danger," he said. "I hope this will make [the government] think more about this case, especially during a time when many 'Arab Spring' countries are taking Turkey as a model for democracy."
Ümit Gürtuna, the spokesman of the Platform of Freedom for Journalists, said there were nearly 10,000 cases in Turkey involving journalists and that the number of arrested journalists had now reached 76. Gürtuna also said Turkey was at the top of the list in terms of the number of journalists that have been arrested.
"This is a shame for a country that is trying to improve its democracy," he said.
Suspect Kaşif Kozinoğlu, a former intelligence operative, was scheduled to appear in court Monday as well, but he died of a heart attack Nov. 12 in prison.
The court decided to postpone the trial until Dec. 26.
During the trial, the defense lawyers also demanded that the judges be recused from the case; a higher court is expected to rule on the demand some time next week.
A row broke out between members of the press and security guards in front of the hearing room at Istanbul's Çağlayan Courthouse just prior to the beginning of the trial.
Due to the intense attention the case has attracted, the trial was held in the larger hall of the First Court of Serious Crimes. A quota of three persons was allocated to the families and acquaintances of the suspects, 20 for the Turkish press and 10 for the international press. Despite the quotas, however, many local journalists were turned away from the trial room as members of the international press were given priority for entry into the courtroom.
There was a separate row between the security guards themselves as the guards standing in front of the hearing room argued with security personnel in charge of registering the names of journalists during the morning.
Erdogan Aims to Destroy Ataturk's Legacy, CHP Leader Says
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's active involvement in a debate over the 1938 Dersim killings is a reflection of his underlying intention to discredit the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's main opposition leader has said.
"Your intention is to settle scores with Atatürk, to dispose of the Republic. We are aware of that," Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Monday at the parliamentary group meeting of his Republican People's Party, or CHP.
Kılıçdaroğlu spoke shortly after Erdoğan said he would disclose documents exposing the CHP's role in a military crackdown on a 1938 Alevi rebellion in Dersim, now Tunceli, in which thousands perished.
Erdoğan challenged Kılıçdaroğlu, himself an Alevi from Tunceli, to face up to his party's responsibility for the killings which took place at a time when the CHP ruled Turkey in a single-party regime.
"It's a golden opportunity for the CHP to face up to the Dersim tragedy as its chairman is a tribe member from Tunceli. You're from Tunceli, why do you shy away?" Erdoğan said.
In an unusually emotional outburst, Kılıçdaroğlu said: "Yes, I'm from Dersim, and I am a son of this nation. Now, I'm the chairman of the CHP and I am proud of it. God-willing, I will also be prime minister soon."
Denouncing Erdoğan's rhetoric as "provocative and divisive," the CHP leader ridiculed his advocacy of the people of Tunceli, a province where the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has never won a parliamentary seat.
"You cannot be the mouthpiece of the people who suffered in Dersim. The people of Dersim would consider your advocacy an insult," Kılıçdaroğlu said.
He said the CHP had nothing to be ashamed of in its past, while accusing Erdoğan of being an heir to those who opposed Atatürk's quest for independence after World War I, but favored instead a British or U.S. mandate.
"Yesterday you were advocates of a mandate and today you are sub-contractors," he said, echoing his earlier accusations that the AKP's foreign policy was dictated by Washington.
Kılıçdaroğlu chided the 12 lawmakers who issued a joint declaration last week against Hüseyin Aygün, the CHP's Tunceli deputy who re-ignited the debate over Dersim and stirred intra-party tensions with remarks asserting that the CHP was responsible for the killings.
"You may harm me, but you cannot harm the CHP, I will not allow this to happen," he said.
Erdoğan dismissed Kılıçdaroğlu's suggestion that incumbent prime ministers should apologize for past atrocities on behalf of the Turkish state.
Avoid Gadhafi's Fate, Erdogan Tells Al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must resign, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday, calling the leader's war on his own people "cowardice."
"Quit power before more blood is shed. For the peace of your people, your region and your country," Erdoğan said. "Bashar al-Assad is saying he will fight to the death. Fighting your own people is not heroism, but cowardice," referring to al-Assad's recent interview with the Sunday Times in London in which he vowed to fight on until the end.
Erdoğan's criticism of the Syrian leader has been mounting for weeks, but Monday was the first time the prime minister directly called for al-Assad to abandon power, reminding al-Assad of the bloody end of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and those of past dictators, including Adolf Hitler.
"If you want to see someone who has fought until death against his own people, just look at Nazi Germany, just look at Hitler, at [Benito] Mussolini, at Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania," Erdoğan said. "If you cannot draw any lessons from these [leaders], then look at the Libyan leader, who was killed just 32 days ago."
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told the Financial Times Monday that Turkey was looking to be more proactive in the region. If the Arab Spring had occurred 20 years ago, Davutoğlu said, "I am sure we would be saying we don't intervene in domestic affairs."
Turkey Plans to Open First Well in Iskenderun Gulf in 2013
Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Ministry plans to open its first well in Iskenderun Gulf in 2013.
According to a report of the ministry, the ministry had carried out 2-D seismic studies in 10,000 square kilometers of an area and 3-D seismic studies in 1,000 square kilometers of an area in the Mediterranean between 2007 and 2010.
Turkey reached an agreement with British energy company Shell to explore, produce and share oil and natural gas in the Mediterranean and Turkey's southeastern Anatolia region.
'Post-Modern' Coup Under Investigation
Prosecutors in Ankara have launched an investigation into a harsh military campaign in 1997 that forced Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, the late Necmettin Erbakan, to step down, according to media reports.
The campaign, which saw Erbakan resign only a year after he came to power in a coalition government, is widely known as the "post-modern coup" or the Feb. 28 process.
The investigation has been launched upon a criminal complaint filed by a lawyer who argued that the military's action at the time amounted to a coup.
Retired Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı, the then chief of General Staff, and his top commanders at the time could be summoned for questioning, the reports said.
"Launching a probe into events known as the Feb. 28 process is a very important development for settling old scores from a dark period," said a deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in a Twitter message Tuesday.
Getting Out of Turkey's Paid Military Service Will Cost 30K Liras
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the details of the much-awaited paid military service on Tuesday, saying that people who are over 29 years old will be eligible.
The eligible will be required to pay 30,000 Turkish liras in order to be exempted from compulsory military service. Noting that they had consulted other state institutions regarding the issue, Erdoğan said:
"We have two major aims in passing a law on paid military service. The first one is decreasing the number of absentees and people who get their military service deferred, which has risen. Second, we aim to realize some very important social services through the Paid Military Service Law."
Erdoğan also noted in his speech that the draft of the law presented to Parliament on Tuesday, would not cause any weakness in the fight against terrorism. The income obtained from paid military service will be spent on social services to be provided to the relatives of those who died in the fight against terrorism, veterans, the handicapped, families who are in need, and whose sons serve in the Turkish army as enlisted personnel on contract and to former members of the gendarmerie and the Security General Directorate who were disabled on active duty.
The law also simplifies military service for Turkish citizens living abroad. Provided that they were abroad for at least three years, Turkish citizens used to pay 5,000 to 7,500 euros, depending on their age, and had to come to Turkey for a 21-day military service. With the new law, they will be completely exempted from military service in return for paying 10,000 euros, regardless of their age.
Saying that conscientious objection has never been on the agenda, Erdoğan went on to explain the details of paid military service in the group meeting.
"Whatever the reason, those who are over 29 years of age and have not yet done their military service will benefit from the new regulation from the date the law goes into effect," Erdoğan said. "When the law is published in the official gazette, they can either pay the full amount of TL 30,000 straight away or half the amount at the time of application, and the rest within six months. They will receive no basic military training, which used to last 21 days, and will be exempted from military service."
The government's bill will be discussed in the parliamentary defense commission on Thursday and will be forwarded to the Parliament, if approved.
Erdoğan stressed news stories about conscientious objection that appeared in the press earlier was a product of mere speculation, and that military service is seen as one of the most sacred duties in the land.
In his speech, Erdoğan also announced that the names of 65 barracks, 34 in the Land Forces Command and 31 in the Gendarmerie General Command, have been changed since November 15.
The name changes started with a barrack named after former Gen. Mustafa Muğlalı, who ordered the killing of 33 people in the town of Özalp in the province of Van in 1943. The names of the barracks of military units the size of a battalion or smaller were replaced with those of soldiers who had lost their lives or served successfully in the armed forces.
CHP Leader Calls for Referendum on Proposed Military Exemption System
Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called on the Turkish government to take the proposed military exemption system to public vote if it is approved in Parliament.
Speaking during his party's parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the planned scheme for favoring the wealthy while victimizing the financially disadvantaged citizens of the nation. He said the proposal exempts those who have money from military service, while the poor will have no such chance, calling on the government to hold a referendum on the issue.
According to the findings of Parliament's Research Center, 125,834 people have benefitted from paid military service regulations in Turkey so far. Such regulations have been made three times: In 1987, benefitting 18,433 people; in 1992, benefitting 35,111 people; and in 1999, after the big earthquake hit İstanbul, benefitting 72,290 people.
There are 60,000 people, some as old as 45, who have not yet completed their military service.
According to figures released by the Turkish General Staff on Monday, there are currently 720,000 members of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, including 365 generals and admirals, 39,975 officers and 95,824 non-commissioned officers.
There are 24,700 gendarmerie field officers and 40,515 non-commissioned gendarmerie officers, as well. There are a total of 201,379 field officers in the TSK.
Currently, there are 458,368 privates and non-commissioned officers and 6,829 reserve officers serving under arms. The TSK also employs 53,424 civilian staff at its facilities.
Gul Receives Warm Welcome in Britain
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II formally welcomed Turkish President Abdullah Gül and his wife, Hayrünnisa, to London Monday at a ceremony that took place near Buckingham Palace. Before
Gül and his wife arrived at the ceremony field near the palace, the Kingdom Squadron entered, accompanied by a band. The queen and her husband, Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived at the field followed by a car carrying Gül and his wife, who arrived from White Hall Gate.
The two heads of state shook hands warmly as the hosts laid on the traditional ceremony pomp, which included a 41-gun royal salute and Gül's inspection of the lines of Coldstream Guards in their grey greatcoats.
During the ceremony, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Home Secretary Theresa May accompanied the queen. The United Kingdom hopes the visit will forge stronger ties with Turkey, a growing economic power and an increasingly important trade partner straddling Europe and the Middle East.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu are accompanying Gül during his visit. It marks the first official visit by a Turkish president to Britain in 23 years. The UK accepts a maximum of two state visits in one year; the year's first visit was paid by United States President Barack Obama. Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to Turkey in 2008.
Gül was scheduled to meet Cameron and receive Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Monday, and was also slated to attend a dinner hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace later in the day.
On Tuesday, Gül delivered a foreign policy speech expected to broach the topic of Syria. Gül will also attend a state banquet and meet political leaders during his visit. Gül also met former British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jack Straw on Nov. 21.