Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ergenekon Investigation Still Anything But Clear

The Office of the General Staff Military Prosecutor has denied that the records he requested in regard to the Öz's investigation of the retired generals arrested in July have anything to do with an intention to begin a military investigation into the "coup diaries." Meanwhile, the Ergenekon investigation remains as impenetrable as ever. The near 2,500-page indictment will not be made public until its admissibility is considered by the court. The indictment contains a miscellany of allegations against various "suspects" who have been arrested throughout the investigation, but falls short of referring to them as defendants. Meanwhile, it is clear that the many rumors that circulated about Ergenekon and the multiple allegations that the organization is linked to the military and various past plans to enact military coups were largely premature and have yet gained much substance in fact. Just what the Ergenekon investigation holds for Turkey's future is hard to say, but rest assured, the case will continue to dominate headlines. What will become of various revelations of the coup diaries prepared by retired military generals is also unsure. No one really knows what is going on with Ergenekon, but hopefully information will eventually be brought forward in an ordered, responsible form that respects judicial process. Only time will tell.

From Saban Kardaş for the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
Turkish prosecutors investigating the Ergenekon network finally submitted their indictment to the court on July 14. The indictment was presented a year after the network was first discovered and many influential figures including retired army generals, journalists, businessmen and academics were arrested or interrogated as part of the investigation. This delay has caused much speculation that the investigation was being used by the government to silence the opposition. The substance of the indictment is also a matter of contention, because in the wake of different waves of arrests, the case has evolved from the investigation of a criminal organization into a probe of a network connected to the "deep state" with extensions in various sectors of civil society seeking to change the government, by staging a coup if necessary.

Istanbul's high criminal court will examine the 2,500-page indictment and decide whether to accept it and open the case, reject it, or return it to the prosecutors for amendments. This process may take up to two weeks, and the court is currently working hard to ensure that its procedure is compatible with the penal code (CNNTurk, July 16). In the meantime, the indictment cannot be made public; but in an unusual press briefing, Istanbul's chief prosecutor summarized the main charges. There are a total of 86 suspects, of whom 48 are in custody and 38 temporarily released. It is not clear which ones will be tried for which crimes. Sections of the indictment have been leaked to the press as well. The prosecutors accuse the suspects of various crimes including "membership in an armed terrorist group"; "attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or block it from performing its duties"; and "being in possession of explosives, using them, and inciting others to commit these crimes." More importantly, the prosecutors have established connections between the Ergenekon network and the 2006 Council of State shooting and an attack at the daily Cumhuriyet's Istanbul office. Moreover, the indictment charges the suspects with inciting several unresolved murders in Turkey's recent past, which may lead to the reopening of some closed cases (CNNTurk, July 14).

The indictment produced mixed reactions from the Turkish political community and the Turkish media. For some reformists it was a step toward further democratizing the country, while others found that it did not live up to expectations. The opposition, in contrast, believes that the case is highly politicized.
For Kardaş' whole analysis, click here.

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