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Old 03-04-2010, 07:41 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2008
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Default Turkey passes the point of no return...

Sharia law will be next...

Top Military arrested

Turkey is moving into uncharted territory, causing deep anxiety among millions of secular Turks who fear prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a former Islamist who won 47 per cent of the vote in the last election – will trample on their rights.

That worry deepened this week, when Turkish authorities made two more controversial arrests – of an active duty general and a state prosecutor who had investigated Islamic networks.

How Turkey resolves this identity crisis will reverberate beyond its borders. It has the second-largest army in Nato after America. It is strategically placed, with Russia to the north and the Middle East to the south. It is a candidate for membership in the European Union. Decades of growth have made it the seventh-largest economy in Europe.

Last week's detentions and arrests capped a month of high political drama that began on 22 January, when a small liberal newspaper, Taraf, published what it said were military documents from a 2003 meeting describing preparations for a coup. The documents, said the paper, were in a suitcase and included diagrams of two Istanbul mosques that were to have small bombs go off in their courtyards, creating an emergency that would justify a military takeover. The military acknowledged a meeting took place, but denied plans for bombings or a coup. Even so, on Monday of last week, Turkish authorities began detaining officers and by the end of the week had more than 60 in custody, including two retired generals. "Now the army is pacified, eliminated as a power from the political scene," said Haldun Solmazturk, also a retired general. "Now the military is touchable."

That is a profound change. Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 by General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who imposed radical change in language and custom on a largely illiterate, agrarian society. The military, together with the judiciary and state bureaucracy, wielded immense power, protecting Turkish democracy "as if the country was a perpetually immature child," said Halil Berktay, history professor at Sabanci University.

"The military came to acquire a sense of, 'this is our land, this is our Republic," he said. It deposed elected governments four times, most recently in 1997.

That role began to change with the rise of Erdogan, a tough-talking mayor who represented a rising underclass of religious Turks. He was a confounding mix, from a background of political Islam, but with an agenda of bringing Turkey into the European Union, where his supporters do business.

Although he was despised by the secular establishment, his party, Justice and Development, won election victory in 2007.

The fact that the military has not responded to the arrests also reflects a leadership opposed to intervention. Army chief General Ilker Basbug has spoken out against military meddling and is believed to have had good relations with Erdogan.

But to Erdogan's critics, the arrests look suspiciously like raw efforts to silence the opposition. And now that he has control over most of the levers of power – the presidency, the government bureaucracy and parliament – they worry that his impulses will be unchecked.
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