The İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court has been hearing the case and delivered its final verdict on Sept. 21 of last year. After an appeal by the defense, the Supreme Court of Appeals will now review the decision.
Former 1st Army commander retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, former Air Forces commander Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına and former Naval Forces commander Adm. Özden Örnek were initially given life imprisonment, but the court said the three would only serve 20-year prison sentences because they were unsuccessful in their bid to topple the government. The court acquitted 34 officers in the case, which has furthered civilian dominance over the once all-powerful military in Turkey.
The first time the Sledgehammer plot was publicly discussed was on Jan. 20, 2010, when the Taraf daily claimed that a group of generals had conspired to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, devising a plot titled the Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan. The daily claimed that among the plans of the generals were bombing the Fatih Mosque, one of İstanbul's biggest, during a busy Friday prayer and other atrocities to shake public confidence in the government. The plot was devised in 2003, according to the paper. The next day, the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into the claims.
Retired Gen. Engin Alan, War Academies commander Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, retired Gen. Ergin Saygun, former National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General Şükrü Sarıışık, retired Gen. Nejat Bek, retired Adm. Ahmet Feyyaz Öğütçü and retired Gen. Süha Tanyeri were also each sentenced to 18 years in prison. The court issued 16-year jail sentences for 214 suspects, including the retired Col. Dursun Çiçek and retired military judge Ahmet Zeki Üçok, in the historic trial.
According to the Sledgehammer Indictment, soon after the general elections of November 2002, a full-fledged coup plan under the leadership of 1st Army commander Doğan was launched to topple the AK Party government. The plot contemplated the bombing of mosques, downing a Turkish fighter jet, the takeover of hospitals and pharmacies, the closing of NGOs, the arrest of journalists and politicians.
The indictment also charges that the coup plot was given a dress rehearsal on March 5-7, 2003, in a seminar at the 1st Army headquarters.
The first evidence against the suspects emerged in January 2010, when an anonymous tipster delivered a suitcase to journalist Mehmet Baransu. The suitcase contained various materials, including documents not related to the investigation. Three CDs -- which formed the backbone of the prosecution's argument -- in the suitcase were the subject of the Sledgehammer investigation. The journalist shared the documents with the prosecutors shortly after obtaining them. The CDs contain documents that mention Sledgehammer and related activities such as operational plans (subplots the generals called Oraj, Suga, Çarşaf, Sakal), a list of civil society organizations that would be closed once the generals were in power, blacklists of individuals from various institutions, journalists to be arrested, vehicles, hospitals and pharmacies to be taken over and personnel assignments. Later, the documents found at Gölcük were added to the pile of evidence against the suspects.