TWO Turkish military intelligence officers appeared in court in the southern city of Van yesterday facing life sentences in a case seen as a test of the country’s worthiness to join the European Union while the army dominates the political system
Together with a Kurdish separatist turned informer, the officers were arrested last November seconds after a grenade exploded in a bookshop in Semdinli, a town close to Iraq, killing one man.
The car they had tried to flee in contained grenades identical to the one used in the attack, and a sketch map of the scene.
The prosecution has accused them of being part of an execution squad targeting suspected Kurdish insurgents. The judge must decide whether they were working on their own or under orders.
The incident has increased tensions between the fiercely pro-secular military and the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has vowed to punish those responsible.
But it has also underscored the influence of the generals, which the EU and rights groups have repeatedly said needs to be reduced.
A prosecutor who suggested that the army’s top general helped form groups that carried out such attacks was sacked and disbarred. The police intelligence chief, who reportedly hinted that soldiers were behind the attack, was transferred to a different post.
At the trial’s opening yesterday, lawyers for the Kurdish bookstore owner requested the removal of the presiding judge from the case, saying he was under the influence of powers outside the judiciary, the Anatolia news agency reported. The lawyers also objected to the judge’s reading of a summary of the indictment, rather than the entire 100-page document.