Tuesday

5th Jul 2022

Erdoğan jails hundreds for life, as EU weighs relations

  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (r) with EU Council president Charles Michel (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Turkey has jailed hundreds of people for life for taking part in the failed putsch in 2016, as EU leaders prepare to decide on future relations.

The mass-sentencing took place in Ankara on Thursday (26 November) after a three-year long trial.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It saw 337 people, most of them young air-force officers from the Akinci air-base, imprisoned for life.

The Turkish trial also charged Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the US, with masterminding the failed attempt to kill president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"The Turkish justice system is continuing to bring the treacherous coup-plotters to account," Turkish justice minister Abdulhamit Gül tweeted on Thursday.

The EU did not comment on the latest step in Erdoğan's crackdown, which has seen tens of thousands of people, including human rights defenders, artists, and opposition MPs, detained and more than 2,000 life sentences handed out already.

But the European Commission gave a withering assessment of Erdoğan's courts in a report in October.

There was "systemic lack of independence of the judiciary" and "political pressure on judges and prosecutors" to hand out pro-government verdicts, it said.

Meanwhile, EU diplomats never believed Erdoğan's story on the Gül plot, according to a leaked intelligence assessment from 2017.

And other leaks have indicated Erdoğan stage-managed aspects of the putsch to help impose his one-man rule.

The mass-jailing comes as EU leaders prepare to discuss future Turkey relations at a summit in December.

Some, led by Cyprus and France, were already calling for EU sanctions over Erdoğan's aggressive behaviour in the eastern Mediterranean.

The US has also threatened sanctions over Turkey's purchase of a Russian air-defence system in a further rift with the West.

But for Numan Kurtulmuş, the Turkish ruling party's deputy chairman, there was still time for last-minute deals.

"The US president will most likely watch the balance in the Middle East very carefully for US interests, and will not want to continue the tense ties with Turkey," Kurtulmuş told the Reuters news agency.

"I believe they [the incoming administration of US president-elect Joe Biden] will take positive steps," Kurtulmuş said.

"We act by thinking about what reforms we need, what steps to democratisation will benefit our people and move on that path, not by thinking what act or rhetoric would please them [the EU]," Kurtulmuş also said, referring to the potential EU sanctions.

Turkey expected the EU to impose symbolic or "toothless" measures only in December, according to Asli Aydıntaşbaş, from the European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) think-tank in Istanbul.

No one believed Turkey was still on course for EU membership, she recently told EUobserver.

"[But] Turkey sees Europe is divided ... and that France and Germany have major differences in how to deal with it," Aydıntaşbaş said, after German chancellor Angela Merkel had worked the phone with Erdoğan in recent weeks to try to soothe tensions.

Turkish diplomacy

Many Turkish military officers and diplomats posted to EU capitals had suffered in Erdoğan's post-coup crackdown, according to Jamie Shea, a former Nato official who now works for British think-tank Chatham House.

"Lots of Turkish bilateral military attachés sought asylum" in Europe due to Erdoğan's purge, Shea recently told this website, in what he called "very difficult circumstances".

But relations remained good at the institutional level, Shea added, even if political ties had deteriorated in recent years.

Turkey still posted "first-class military officers to Nato command," Shea, who left the Nato HQ in Brussels in 2018, said.

And "the [Turkish] diplomatic service continues to function very well. The quality of Turkish diplomacy, and I've worked with a lot of Turkish diplomats, is very high," Shea said.

Analysis

There is no 'Russia-Turkey alliance'

Talk of a grand Turkey-Russia realignment is premature, Nato and Russia experts say - despite Putin and Erdoğan's friendly ties.

Von der Leyen: 'I felt alone as a woman'

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen blamed sexism for having been relegated to a sofa in Ankara during a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the presence of European Council president Charles Michel.

Opinion

Time for dither and delay with Ankara's rights record is over

I know first-hand how difficult it is to take a firm stance against Turkey. As Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, I engaged in tough discussions with Ankara, wrote highly-critical reports, and tried to rally member states.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  2. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  3. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  4. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  5. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  6. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying
  7. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  8. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us