INFORMATION ABOUT THE SLEDGEHAMMER CASE
The case, known as “Sledgehammer (Balyoz in Turkish)” in Turkey, concerns an alleged coup d’état that supposedly took place between 2002 and 2003, and it is merely a political case more commonly called “the Slander of the Century, Sledgehammer Case”. Hundreds of innocent and dignified people have been under arrest for more than two years unlawfully and unfairly due to fabricated and anonymous digital data whose origins have been deliberately overlooked and ignored.
In this case, it is simply aimed to eliminate visionary, patriotic and innocent members of Turkish Armed Forces by manipulating the judicial bodies and referring to past coup d’états even though these people have no relation to them.
The “Sledgehammer Case” was litigated based on the allegations that the 1st Army Commander who was in office in 2003 tasked the then Commander of Turkish War Colleges, the Fleet Commander, Gendarmerie District Commanders of Istanbul and Bursa as well as some officers to design some supposedly “coup d’état plans” under the names “Balyoz (Sledgehammer), Suga (Belay), Oraj (Orage(fr.)) Sakal (Beard) , Çarşaf (Burqa) etc.” and that he covertly tested them in a seminar held at the 1st Army Command on March 5-7, 2003. In other words, those who are tried at the Sledgehammer case were blamed not because they attended that seminar but they allegedly rehearsed a plan called the “Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan” at the said seminar covertly and were allegedly involved in the preparation of some plans.
During the early stages of this case, 364 members of Turkish Armed Forces and one civilian were tried, 250 of them held in custody. Although the total number of officers who attended the said seminar was 162, only 52 of them were charged with this allegation. Wasn’t it also necessary to blame the other attendants if there was allegedly a rehearsal for a potential coup d’état at the seminar?
Out of 325 Turkish Armed Forces members who were tried, and eventually, sentenced in this case with the aim of eliminating them from the Armed Forces, 273 officers did not attend the said seminar. Innocent people are denied their freedom merely based on anonymous digital data which are proven by many expert reports beyond any doubt, to be fabricated slanders and libels and which would in no event be considered as valid evidence in any State of law around the world.
At the Plan Seminar held at the 1st Army Command between 5 and 7 March 2003, the Command’s Operation Plan against the enemy was discussed in the light of the “worst possible case scenario”, including potential measures that the Internal Security Action troops would take following the declaration of a martial law against possible internal commotions and riots behind the battlefront while the army fighting against the hostile country. All presentations and speeches by the attendants were recorded under the order of the 1st Army Command during the seminar which lasted two and a half days, and thereafter they were kept at the premises of the Command. These actual recordings which have no bearing to any coup d’état were stolen and taken out of the headquarters years later by unscrupulous miscreants, who had somehow infiltrated into the government and the society, thus Turkish Armed Forces. In order to create an impression that there was a coup d’état attempt by the Turkish Armed Forces, some real documents stolen from the Commands were also blended with the fabricated digital documents so that everything would appear as real.
The said real documents stolen from various headquarters and units of the Armed Forces consist of official correspondence for various tasks and assignments which, in fact, have nothing to do with the case. The court inquired the relevant military institutions as to those documents, and was replied, quite naturally, that they were just legal and official correspondence that do not contain any criminal content.
In order to make the slanders more convincing, the forged digital documents were fabricated by using actual quotations from the speeches and presentations at the seminar held at the 1st Army Command on 5-7 March 2003. However, neither seminar-related presentations, discussions and correspondence nor voice recordings revealed or included even the names of those allegedly rehearsed plans, such as “Balyoz, Suga, Oraj, Sakal, Çarşaf etc.” Because the entire set of those digital data were fully fabricated and this was verified by 31 public witnesses summoned and heard before the court in addition to those expert reports.
The said expert reports scientifically proved that such slanderous digital data were fabricated on a date which must be, at the earliest, later than 2007, based on actual speeches and presentations at the 2003 seminar as well as real stolen documents. The names of those who were tried were underhandedly written on these fabricated digital data without their consent and knowledge.
In their efforts to produce fabricated plans in 2007 and thereafter, the slanderers actually targeted talented and highly-esteemed officers with supreme qualifications who would have been otherwise appointed to certain positions at today’s command echelon. In order to achieve their goal, they embedded in, above-said fabricated plans and digital data linked to those plans, the names of certain talented and competent officers who were young in 2003 and of those who could be challenging adversaries or obstacles for the slanderers as well as of such highly competent military personnel, some of whom were retired but most of whom were still in active duty. Moreover, the slanderers also wanted to intimidate those officers who were not parties to the said case with a simple message that “they should be careful if they do not want to be apprehended based on further slanders and to see their lives ruined upon the publication of such shams in the media.”
Before and during this trial, there was and still there has been an intensive press policy to defame and disparage such personnel. There was an attempt to drive the public to a certain perception with the help of fabricated news, crooked information, illogical comments, unrealistic charges, and claims by exploiting all communication means offered by the media. In this respect, media actors whom we call as “coup d’état-mongers” penned articles based on past coup d’états or appeared at TV channels to incriminate the accused before the public in advance. In this way, not only was the presumption of innocence violated but also there were attempts to distance the Sledgehammer case from its essence so that the truth would be disguised.
Those who were tried in the case were indicted merely based on anonymous and slanderous digital data and were arrested unfairly, unlawfully and without any justice. They were also sentenced to an imprisonment up to 20 years following a totally figurative and arbitrary trial. The case files were sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals to be appealed and the process is currently undergoing.
Considering the fact that there is not a single evidence of which the fabricated nature has not been proven yet, we would like you to know that such digital data were not produced by these innocent people who are tried but were fabricated and serviced by a professional organization, the expertise of which is to fabricate sham and slanderous evidence.
The basis for the charges against the defendants before the court may be summarized as follows: First is the presence of the names of the accused embedded in the metadata details of the slanderous digital data. The second is the opinion that the members of the Court has derived from the similarity between the textual contents of these fabricated plans and the real speeches and presentations in the seminar.
Metadata contain the identification details of each article typed in a computer, which means that the computer automatically saves the company name where the computer is located, the user name, the creation and last access/edit times of the article. The simple fact that this data can be manipulated and altered at a later date by another user has been proven by tens of expert reports, not to mention, by the expert report penned by TUBITAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey), in which the Court has a high level of confidence. For this reason, it is quite easy to digitally fabricate any letter or article full of slanders and to edit the metadata in someone’s name. This is the true sham and fraudulence committed in this case. Someone comes up with a post-2007 fake and forged plan in your name in a computer; edits the metadata of these data and fabricates evidence by writing 2003 on the creation and last saved data sections which would underlie charges against you and your arrest. This is simply a crime against humanity committed with slander.
The members of the Court have rendered its decision based on opinions rather than evidence. Opinions have not been supported by single evidence and are the results that the Court has reached without any investigation. These opinions were deemed sufficient for arrests and indictments although they simply lacked evidence. Texts in these fabricated digital data were linked by the editors to the actual speeches and presentations in the seminar so that these slanders were presented to the public as if they were real.
TUBITAK employees, who issued an expert report only for the CDs that contain the forged documents upon the Court request, overlooked the findings and determinations as to the computer software used to create, edit and last save these digital data, and the versions of such software as well as those files that were created in the same computer environment. In fact, if these were also investigated, they would have been able to see that the software used to prepare the digital data were not yet in use in 2003 and that the digital data underlying the indictments were fabricated after 2003. As a matter of fact, the expert reports, issued upon the requests of the defendants, revealed and proved without any trace of doubt that CDs 11 and 17 containing the said forged digital data, the Hard Disc no 5 seized at the Fleet Command in Gölcük as well as Flash Disc confiscated in Eskisehir were manipulated to contain fabricated dates and times; that digital data which appeared to have been generated in 2003 and saved in CDS and Hard/Flash Discs revealed certain charts and fonts that did not exist prior to 2007 and that it would not be possible to even use such data as evidence before the courts.
The forgeries involved in metadata were soundly presented before the court. Such that, on that day and at that very moment when certain suspects were blamed by the prosecutors based on the metadata, they proved with substantial evidence that they were on assignment, at another location or abroad.
For example, it was revealed that certain naval officers who were allegedly attended a “secret” meeting held in Aksaz according to the prosecutor were actually deployed at the port of a foreign country, overseas or even they were underwater being filmed by the state television.
Moreover, an official letter from Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality proved that certain avenue and street names, referred to in so called reconnaissance reports issued in 2003 for bombing mosques, were actually given in 2006. It was officially proven that some university students in the lists consisting of the names of the “personnel to be detained” were at the age of secondary school then; and that certain people whose names were shown in the personnel lists of certain institutions for 2003 were found to have been registered after 2006.
Similarly, the ships which were allegedly assigned for the preparations of the alleged coup d’état were in fact under maintenance on that date; some officers who had passed away in 1998 and 2000 were shown as if they were supporters of the coup d’état in 2003 and more fraudulence and shams are all available in the formal hearing records and the Internet web sites related to the case. Considering the fact that the efforts to fabricate a plan at a date after 2008 which should appear as if it were prepared in 2003 would require a pool of many lies, there were almost 2000 shams, anachronisms, forgeries and fraudulence revealed in the said plans and correspondence similar to the ones above.
The Court persisted in refusing the demands of those innocent people under trial to hear experts or specialists who would confirm these allegations, and in doing so the Court simply violated the right to defence. It was very unfortunate that the members of the Court felt content with the incomplete and self-contradictory TUBITAK report and did not feel it necessary to deepen the investigation. In fact, this report merely made certain inadequate determinations related to the CDs, and it did not even consider whether or not the CDs containing the sham “Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan” were in fact created after 2003 and got pretended to have been prepared in 2003.
You can be sure that alleged coup d’état plans like “Balyoz, Suga, Oraj, Sakal, Çarşaf etc.” were designed after 2007 by an organization targeting Turkish Armed Forces and that criminal evidence was fabricated in a manner that they would appear to have originated in 2003, because this fact has been proven in many forensic reports issued by specialists in the field of information technologies at respected universities in Turkey (METU; Bogazici, ITU, Yildiz Technical University) as well as other consultancy companies that serve as independent advisors for the judicial systems of the United States and Germany including the European Court of Human Rights.
These expert reports confirmed the following:
- Digital data that were saved in CDs no 11, 16 and 17 which were delivered by a journalist to public prosecutors, in the Hard Disc no 5 which was allegedly captured at the Fleet Command in Gölcük, and in the Flash Disc confiscated in Eskisehir were created by using the typefaces “Calibri and Cambria”, which definitely did not exist in 2003; that those typefaces were first used along with the launch of Microsoft Office 2007 in January 2007; that it was not possible for the “last saved” dates of Office documents bearing “Calibri” references in CDs no 11 and 17 to be the years 2002 and 2003 although they appear to have been last saved in those years as those fonts did not exit then and “Calibri” was the default font in Office 2007;
- XML tags present in the Powerpoint documents considered as criminal elements were not in use by the end of 2006 and only processed in Microsoft Office 2007 version.
- In addition, (minimum) 120 retroactively dated files and folders were specifically copied onto the Hard Disc that was captured in Gölcük.
- Out of the digital data available in CDs 11, 16 and 17 among (19) CDs delivered by the journalist:
v 68 digital data were fabricated in Microsoft Office 2007 (Office 12 ver.) which was launched on 30 January 2007; data were copied onto 12 digital data from those files fabricated by the same Microsoft Office 2007 (Office 12 ver.) program and the metadata of all digital data that allegedly constitute criminal elements were created by tampering with the computer’s system date and time,
v In addition, digital data which were allegedly generated by various different personnel at different Headquarters and units, or in fact, at the Land Forces Command, Air Forces Command, Naval Forces Command, Gendarmerie General Command and Coast Guard Command were in fact fabricated at the same computer by using LINUX operating system which was very rarely used in our country in those years.
Moreover, the public prosecutor or the court did not order any expert report regarding the Hard Disc no 5 in Golcük or the Flash Disk captured in Eskisehir in spite of insistent demands in that respect.
To sum it up, these slanderous digital data were not originated in the past and adapted to the present but rather they were fabricated in today’s circumstances and adapted to the past.
Lawyers collectively refused to attend the hearings held on 5 and 6 April 2012 on account of the fact that the members of the Court simply ignored the “defence” and violated our “right of defence”. The members of the Court had no choice but to hear the experts who were invited by the defendants during those hearings in the absence of lawyers.
Tevfik Koray PEKSAYAR, Türker GÜLÜM and Prof. Ahmet Coşkun SÖNMEZ, forensic experts, whose names are listed in the annual lists of experts published by the Ministry of Justice made certain presentations in turn, and testified that although the digital data were created using Microsoft 2007 and later versions, the date and time of the computer were back-dated so that the year in which CDs were fabricated appeared as 2003. In addition, they underlined the fact that CDs submitted as criminal evidence were not rewritable CDs by their nature and that for this reason, after such a CD is created, its metadata and the files in its content could not be changed and in this respect, the allegations raised by certain circles that “these CDs were updated” were not realistic.
Official correspondence exchanged with the Public Prosecutor at the early times of the investigation revealed that many of these digital documents contained references to events that took place much later than 2003; but for some reason or other such evidence that would work in favour of the defendants was hidden from them and their lawyers. The digital images of CDs and Hard/Flash Discs were handed over to the defendants nearly one year after the commencement of the litigation and there was an attempt to gloss over and disguise all the evidence that would work in their favour.
The Court simply skipped the phase of the case proceedings where the evidence would be discussed, violating Turkish and International Laws. The ultimate intention here was to disguise and hide the material facts that would affect the course of the litigation. Although there were persistent demands by the defendants, no expert was appointed to examine the evidence and to evaluate the said expert reports. These justified and legal demands were simply overlooked and the Prosecutor was asked to submit his arguments and opinions regarding the “merits of the case”. The Prosecutor submitted his “opinion” which did not rely on any single material evidence, and demanded the Court to sentence all defendants, regardless of whether they were in custody or not, to imprisonment of 15 to 20 years.
The defendants’ demand that Retired General Aytac Yalman, who was in 2003 the Commander of Land Forces, be heard as witness before the court was rejected although according to the indictment he allegedly played a “key role in the coup d’état”.
The legal scandal committed in the “Sledgehammer” case because of collective arrests and collective trials turned into a legal disaster due to the sentences adjudicated by the Court on 21 September 2012. The 16-20 year sentences handed down by the court were not actually a surprise to the defendants because a legal outcome was never expected from such a political case.
In brief, the Court:
- remained silent in the face of the fact that certain evidence that were in favour of the defendants was kept under judicial custody and some were lost;
- did not hand over the most significant evidence to the Defence for months;
- did not evaluate and discuss the so-called evidence which was clearly fabricated, manipulative and slanderous;
- did not appoint a forensic expert;
- did not hear the witnesses of the defence;
- overlooked nearly all demands of the defence although it simply fulfilled almost all demands by the Prosecutor;
- And in doing so, violated all laws and our right to defend ourselves in a trial without lawyers.
For this reason, the Court has stood against “science” and “reason” and burnt all bridges that would lead us to justice.
10th High Criminal Court which was actually annulled by way of a law enacted on 05 July 2012 upon a specific complaint by the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic because “they turned out to be a state within the state” but whose “special power and jurisdiction” was sustained for the ongoing cases thanks to provisional articles, violating universal principles of law, made public its “Rationale for the Decision” nearly three and half months after the adjudication on 07th January 2013. Furthermore, inconsistencies in the rationale revealed that it is nothing but a “justification of a fabrication”.
Against the due processes of law, selected excerpts of the rationale for the decision of the court, which did not contain a valid legal ground, was leaked to certain media before being submitted to defense and defendants, for manipulation of the public opinion along the wishes of the court. Defense and defendants learned about the rationale through the media as “breaking news”. This was another example of defense being been ignored throughout the judicial process.
In the “Rationale for the Decision”;
- No specific evidence was provided for each of the defendants as required by law, linking them with physical evidence to the crime. Thus, the judgment was imposed without bearing any link in terms of causality.
- While how each defendant was involved in the slanderous crime should have been told in detail, there was a generalization applicable to all parties based only on the convictions of the court.
- The Court deliberately changed the statements by the defendants in order to manipulate and direct the public opinion to think that the sentences are justified.
- The charges for certain defendants were reworded/ changed deliberately as to the Indictment in order to mislead the “Supreme Court of Appeals” process.
- In trying to defend and back up its violations of law The Court has included certain matters, determinations that have never been discussed in the course of the trial.
- Because the Court failed to substantiate its opinions by facts, it relied on publicly available news articles without even the need to verify them.
- The Court contended that the alleged coup d’état could not be conducted due to the heart surgery of General Çetin Doğan, the primary defendant in the case, who was then retired at the following Supreme Military Council a few months later. Although this irrational claim of a General’s illness interrupting a coup plan was never discussed during the hearings, it turned out to be the basic argument of ‘the rationale’. Apparently, the baseless claim of other generals preventing the realization of the plan in the indictment could not be grounded in the rationale of the decision.
- • Although nearly 2000 inconsistencies and anachronisms which prove that alleged evidence was actually fabricated and shammed never appeared in both the “indictment” and the “opinion of the merit”, it was claimed in the ‘rationale’ that “The Defendants have updated the evidence.” In fact, the Court had relied on the forensic expert report issued by TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey), and acknowledged that the CDs containing the primary evidence of crime as set out in the indictment were produced in a single session in 2003 and they could not have been updated.
This “updating of the evidence” allegation also ignores the following statement made by the Turkish Republic of the Minister of Defence on 03 January 2013: “Since it had not been introduced yet at the time, it was not possible that Turkish Armed Forces could have used Office 2007 Microsoft program in documents found in the CDs, fundamental “evidences” of the Case, that it is claimed they were created in a single session 2003”.
Tevfik Koray PEKSAYAR, Türker GÜLÜM and Prof. Ahmet Coşkun SÖNMEZ, the forensic experts on judicial information technologies, scientifically proved in their joint expert report dated 13 March 2013 that the update allegations were groundless.
In addition to those, as the most important evidence the members of the court claimed that the Turkish General Staff informed the Court that originals of the slanderous digital data, which were found during searches at the Fleet Command Headquarters in Gölcük and in the house of a Retired Air Force Colonel’s son in Eskişehir, existed in related military corps themselves
Since the beginning of judicial process Turkish General Staff (TGS) remained silent not to prejudice the due course of justice, though broke silence upon the latest statements of the court regarding the rationale. TGS made a public statement claiming that no argument related to existence of original documents was true. Therefore, the Court had to accept the contradiction by denying its own statements in the rationale for its decision.
Thereafter Turkish General Staff’s statements, Ali Sirmen, a columnist in Cumhuriyet, a Turkish daily newspaper, penned an article, in which he argued that “In the past coup periods, jurists evaluated the rationale of decisions as unjust, unlawful, based on insufficient proofs, however, for the first time, rationale of court’s decision is accused of falsehood.” In other words, rationale for the decision is identified with falsehood.
In addition, Ertuğrul OZKOK, another columnist in Hurriyet, a Turkish daily newspaper, stated that “It seems as if his rationale has been written for not being approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals and it transforms to a court’s defence against defendants rather than the rationale of Court’s decision.”
Ruhat MENGİ, a columnist in Vatan, a Turkish daily newspaper stated that “Lives of hundreds of people and their honors that they protected for life time should not be at the hands of Assized Courts with Special Powers which were annulled by reason of making arbitrary decisions and being unlawful. Turkey has been undergoing a disgraceful period in terms of jurisdiction because of these Assized Courts with Special Powers and this shame should be cleansed as soon as possible”..
Orhan Bursali, another columnist in Cumhuriyet, a Turkish daily newspaper commented on the Court decision as follows; “ungrounded, unproven, arbitrary, consistent with unlawful and vengeful administration they followed, consciously false, interpretation of documents not lawfully but arbitrarily and not being able to find rationale for their decision.”
The Turkish Republic; which claims to try to stop human rights violations in its neighbours and demand for their people fairness, law and freedom, could not prevent human rights violations, unfair and unlawful treatment of its Armed Forces, on the contrary it holds innocent and dignified people captive in their own country with the help of judiciary instead of searching for and capturing the plotters.
Moreover, in its official defence argument sent by The Ministry of Justice of the Turkish Republic to the European Court of Human Rights and United Nations Working Group on the Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD), the Ministry alleged that the documents containing the “slanderous Suga (Belay), Oraj (Orage(fr.))” plans were actually “signed” which is totally unreal.
All these statements and explanations have substantiated inconsistency, groundlessness, unlawful practice of the Sledgehammer Case and how it is used for taking revenge of former coups d’états from innocent people under the pretense of putting an end of the military dominance and ensuring democratization of Turkey. Now the truth is naked, revealed and the “salt now stinks”, as a Turkish proverb goes.
Intellectuals, scientists, politicians, non-governmental organizations and agencies with the task to ensure fair and equal treatment all around the world do not have the right or privilege to bury their heads in the sand. If there is anyone who does not agree with the explanations in this respect, they should be suspicious and investigate the truth.
On the other hand, despite knowing the truth, if the opposite is defended and it is claimed that “a junta inside the Turkish Armed Forces is cleansed off and purged and that in this way Turkish democracy has progressed”, this would mean the destruction of justice.
It is inhuman to believe that the imprisoning of innocent people deliberately by their own state in an unlawful and unfair way is “a mandatory act for the sake of democracy”.
Although the defendants are military personnel, they are, before everything, human beings, and an equitable and free life that everyone deserves should not be denied to them.
It is obvious that in a country with no justice and freedom, the democracy will never prevail.
Our objective is to ensure justice by opposing against the unlawfulness, unfairness and injustice, to reveal the truth and to ensure that those who have committed this crime against humanity be judged by fair and independent judicial bodies.
We kindly ask you to give support to these justified demands.
 There are two separate reports issued by TUBITAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) employees and experts appointed for this case. These two reports are in contradiction with each other. Moreover, although it was proven by tens of expert reports that digital data that were allegedly created in 2003 bear such fonts and symbols available at Microsoft Word software which was not launched until 2007, one cannot find such a determination or finding in TUBITAK reports and contrary to these findings, TUBITAK reports argue that the software related to digital data are in conformity with 2003 year software. It was proven that TUBITAK expert reports are full of evaluations that are not true or scientific so that they are not reliable. In spite of insistent demands that a new expert report should be issued to make up the inconsistencies between the Reports and that the material truth should be revealed, these demands were all refused by the court and the court based its decision on these TUBITAK reports which were the results of the inadequate surveys and full of unrealistic arguments.
 Cumhuriyet, a Turkish daily newspaper, 04 January 2013
 Cumhuriyet, a daily newspaper, the article dated January 2013
 Hurriyet, a daily newspaper, Ertuğrul ÖZKÖK, the article published on 08 January 2013
 Vatan, a daily newspaper, Ruhat MENGİ, the article published on 10 January 2013
 Cumhuriyet, , Orhan BURSALI, 08 January 2013, the article published on 08 January 2013