The terrorism and organized crime bureau of the Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office demanded prison sentences for former executives and journalists of the Taraf daily as part of an investigation into allegations that they plotted against the suspects in the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup plot case.
The Turkish General Staff was cited as the plaintiff in the indictment prepared by the prosecutor's office. Retired top generals, who were arrested during the 4-year-long investigation and trial process, were also named as plaintiffs.
Prison terms of up to 75 years were sought for key suspects Mehmet Baransu and Tuncay Opçin, who were accused of separate charges including "establishing and running an armed terror organization," "repeatedly stealing, cheating to obtain and using documents on state security," and "repeatedly obtaining and revealing secret state documents."
Both Baransu and Opçin are being accused of being members of the alleged Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which is being probed for attempting to overthrow the government through operations launched by its cadre nested in the police and judiciary using fake evidence and illegal wiretapping. The Sledgehammer and Ergenekon trials, which were initiated by Gülen-linked police officers and jurists, are widely perceived as a step by the shadowy movement to curb the influence of the Turkish Armed Forces.
Baransu was arrested on March 1, 2015 on charges related to this case, whereas an arrest warrant is pending for Opçin, who has fled abroad.
The indictment demanded a prison term of up to 52 years for the daily's former editor-in-chief Ahmet Altan, former vice editor-in-chief Yasemin Çongar and former columnist Yıldıray Oğur for all the charges directed against Baransu and Opçin, excluding terror organization charges.
The indictment on Baransu's arrest previously stated that the evidence presented by Baransu and published by Taraf daily in 2010, which formed the basis of the Sledgehammer trials, was obtained illegally, originals were destroyed, and some originals were missing.
The Turkish General Staff pressed charges on December 27, 2013 against the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer suspects, stating that false evidence targeting the Turkish Armed Forces and its current and retired personnel was being used. Accordingly, separate investigations were launched on these two cases, along with the OdaTV and Poyrazköy trials.
Sledgehammer was an alleged military coup plot by a junta in the Turkish Armed Forces staged by the First Army Command between March 5 and March 7, 2003 in an attempt to overthrow the Turkish Republic's elected government. The five-stage plan was allegedly prepared by a junta under the leadership of then-First Army Commander Çetin Doğan. The five phases are said to have included the Oraj plan by the Air Force and the Suga plan by the Navy in an attempt to foment chaos and lay the groundwork for a coup. Other plans involved targeting religious leaders, non-Muslim community leaders, anti-coup academics and pro-democracy journalists. According to the alleged plot, the bombing of the Fatih and Beyazıt Mosques would have forced the government to implement martial law while the downing of a Turkish warplane over Greek airspace would have provoked the Turkish public.
In September 2012, the court sentenced 324 of the 365 defendants to prison for conspiring to topple the government. After a partial acquittal involving 88 suspects, all 236 remaining suspects were acquitted on March 31, 2015 after the prosecutor of the case asserted that the digital data in the file, which was presented as the key piece of evidence in the case, could not serve as evidence in the court since an expert report revealed its falsity.