Former chief of the Turkish armed forces General Ilker Basbug, who is accused of leading a shadowy organization known as Ergenekon, has walked out of his terrorism trial in protest at the use of taped phone calls.
I wrote here a lot of times that the government lost the opportunity to truely democratize the system by turning the Ergenekon case into an oppression tool against the political opposition and the free media. So, almost nothing in today's court proceeding surprised me, except a question that was asked to Basbug.
According to a report by the semi-official news agency Anadolu Ajansi, a judge asked Basbug about his photo taken in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Before being appointed as the Chief of the General Staff, Basbug was the target of a propaganda campaign initiated by some Islamist newspapers, who were alleging with an openly anti-semitic tone that he was actually a Jew.
It is unbelievable that a Turkish judge has raised this issue at trial. What has that photo got to do with this case which is basically about an alleged coup plan? Even if Basbug is Jewish, so what? What kind of answer was expected from him?
Basbug didn't answer, of course. "Religious freedom aside, my client is being forced to comment about Internet rumours," his lawyer said. Then, the chief judge interrupted the defence lawyer: "You have no right of objection about the right of the judges to ask questions."
In these days that some official media authorities hypocritically try to mend fences with Israel, while anti-semitic ads are on air, the question for Basbug is striking, indeed.
And this question may be enough to have an idea about the AKP standards for the judiciary. On March 1st, Turkey's EU Minister Egemen Bagis was trying to convince the BBC presenter that -yes- they have been in power for a decade, but such judicial scandals were still there because they "inherited it from the previous government" and could start to improve the judiciary only after the constitutional referendum in 2010.
And yes, even questions are much worse now...