Yet, they said Turkey needs more reforms to get rid of coup attempts.
In a landmark move, the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court, which heard the Sledgehammer case, gave 20-year prison sentences to three retired generals and 16-year sentences to 214 other suspects in the case over charges of coup plotting.
Armenian Taraf columnist Markar Esayan defines the decision to convict the Sledgehammer coup plot as “the beginning of a new era,” although he does not believe that it symbolizes the end of military coups in Turkey without further reforms. Esayan, Mihail Vasiliadis from the İstanbul-based Greek Apoyevmatini newspaper, Armenian author Hayko Bağdat and human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz all agree that the Sledgehammer case is critical in the problematic history of civil-military relations in Turkey while pointing out the existing problems of Turkish democracy as far as minorities are concerned.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman, in consensus, they referred to the plans of the junta within the Sledgehammer case to threaten and kill members of Christian minorities in Turkey to create the impression in the West that Christians were oppressed in Turkey by the “Islamist” Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. Esayan stated that the junta had obvious plans against the minorities aimed to “complain about the AK Party in Turkey to the West,” but the verdict in the case “proved that justice is possible in Turkey.”
Drawing attention to the similarities between the Sledgehammer coup plan and the military intervention of Sept. 12, 1980, Cengiz said, “The verdict is very meaningful for both Turkey and its minorities as they have always been the number one victims of military coups in Turkey.” Cengiz added that the junta’s plan to kill prominent Christian minorities in Turkey was to give the impression that the Islamists had done it to prepare the basis for a secular intervention. “Minorities always suffered from military governments,” said Vasiliadis, as he added his contentment with the relatively short trial period. While noting that “minorities have always been a means of politics and power struggles in Turkey,” Vasiliadis stated, “It is pleasant to think that another military intervention will not take place.”
Armenian activist and writer Bağdat said, “I find the Sledgehammer decision very positive, but insufficient,” while talking about the unresolved parts of the Hrant Dink murder. “We have witnessed the actions of the deep state [the plans mentioned in the Sledgehammer case targeting minorities]. They had already implemented the Cage plan. We are aware of this reality” as he denounced the arguments that the Sledgehammer case was conducted based on fabricated documents. “It is more difficult to kill innocent people to prepare the ground for a military coup,” said Esayan. Similarly, Bağdat said that the fact that the junta plans, including Kafes (Cage) and Orak (Grass Hook), were brought to the court “prevented more sensational murders of minorities in Turkey.” He said that he wished that “the judicial process was a more proper one so that we would know who is pro coup or democrat.”
Referring to the unresolved problems of minorities in Turkey, they all called on the government for further reform. According to the Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan exposed by the liberal Taraf daily in 2010, a group within the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had a plan to systematically incite chaos in society through violent acts that would eventually lead to a military takeover. The junta planned to detain and then arrest at least 200,000 individuals on charges of reactionary activity in İstanbul after the coup, according to the Sledgehammer plan.
Coup planners also hoped to assassinate opponents of the planned coup using professional gendarmes. To this end, they prepared sub-plans. One of the plans, titled Tırpan (Scythe), would kill academics who opposed the planned coup. Prominent Armenians would be murdered under the Orak (Grass Hook) plan, right-wing figures under the Yumruk (Fist) plan, left-wing figures under the Kürek (Spade) plan, liberals under the Testere (Saw) plan, religious figures under the Döküm (Breakdown) plan, civil society representatives under the Urgan (Rope) plan and minority leaders would be killed under the Sakal (Beard) plan.