Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ergenekon: Difficult Ground Indeed

The Ergenekon indictment is expected to be released tomorrow and stories are still flying about the nature of the organization, its criminal activities, and most importantly, its links to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). As noted in my July 9 post, the investigation poses a difficult test for Turkish democracy and coming amidst the AKP closure case, risks a significant destabilization of Turkish politics. The following from Saban Kardaş appeared on July 9 in the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
To establish a credible case for this charge before the courts, the prosecutors have to connect the perpetrators to “actual plotters” in the military. This seems to be the Achilles’ heel of the entire case: proving Ergenekon’s intent and its capability to overthrow the government requires the conviction of a good many shadowy figures; but as the prosecution pursues influential people, it gets engulfed in the muddy waters of Turkish politics. Civilian investigations into past coups and alleged coup attempts, let alone bringing those involved to trial, is a venture into uncharted territory for Turkish politics.

. . . .

Prosecutor Zekeriya Oz assumed a Herculean task by deciding to expand the scope of the Ergenekon investigation. In this already politicized case, the prosecution will have to prove that what is on trial is not the neo-nationalist political program opposing the AKP but a group that poses an imminent threat to legal order. Hence, the Ergenekon investigation ironically coalesces with the closure case in an odd way. If the prosecution cannot furnish a strong case, it will be charged with seeking to prosecute advocates of an idea rather than the wrongdoings of a terrorist organization, paralleling the charges that the Constitutional Court closes political parties for harboring ideas without looking into hard evidence.
The task is indeed Herculean, and time will simply tell exactly what happens. Recent leaks of the investigation have included linking the assassination plans of Alparslan Aslan to Ergenekon. According to media sources close to the government, Aslan is said to have received assistance from Ergenekon to assassinate judges at the Council of State and also in his 2006 hand grenade attack on Cumhuriyet's İstanbul office.

In other news, more dirty laundry is being aired. Former Chief of General Staff retired Gen. Hilmi Özkök has neither confirmed nor denied that some members of the General Staff had pursued plans for a coup as early as 2003, one of which is rumored to have called for Özkök's own assassination. Some have linked these coup attempts to Ergenekon, but if more or less true, they could exist as a phenomenon altogether separate or perhaps only slightly connected and defined by very different driving forces. Revelations of plans for Özkök's assassination were first reported by the newsweekly Yeni Aktüel (click here for the story in Today's Zaman).

We will see what tomorrow brings in terms of an actual indictment. The indictment will not include the suspects detained on July 1, allegations against whom will be formalized in a later appendage to the larger indictment. There will no doubt be plenty of leaks in the interim.

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