Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ergenekon: Making Sense of the Soup

The Ergenekon indictment released yesterday included charges made against 86 people who have been detained in the past months. İstanbul Chief Prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin filed the 2,455-page indictment, which did indeed include a near 60-pages of evidence linking Alparslan Arslan to the 2006 shootings at the Council of State. Those charged do not include retired General Şener Eruygur, former Commander of the Gendarmerie, and retired General Hurşit Tolan, former Commander of the First Army Force (İlk Ordu), nor any of the other other suspects detained on July 1. Most significant to the indictment was the absence of what have come to be known as the "coup diaries," alleged to have belonged to former Navy Commander Adm. Özden Örnek and first published in Nokta in March 2007. Over the past weeks, many newspapers have hinted—and sometimes directly alleged—that Ergenekon had close ties with the military and has been working over the past years to overthrow the AKP government. Engin instead issued a sharp condemnation of the media's reportage of the investigation:
“Since this investigation started many documents, some of them secret, and much information have appeared in the media; many reports and interpretations have been published. It is media’s duty to inform the public. However, major part of these publications was not true. They have caused great deal of misinformation; the public have been misinformed. Misinterpretations based on these publications lead to wrong expectations, violate the private lives and fundamental rights of the suspects and cause severe and unfair criticism regarding the justice system.”
Engin asked the public to continue to wait patiently until lead investigating prosecutor Zekeriya Öz has time to finish his investigation.

In the meantime, the General Staff Military Prosecutor has called on lead prosecutor Zekeriya Öz to turn over all information pertaining to Eruygur and Tolon as part of a separate investigation being launched by the General Staff about the coup diaries. Announced on the private television state NTV, this separate military investigation is a new and interesting development that adds another dimension to the investigation of just what exactly occurred within the TSK's top brass and if there was/is indeed any link between some in the Turkish General Staff and the so-called 'deep state,' as represented by Ergenekon and/or other shadowy underground network.

From Mehmet Ali Birand in today's Turkish Daily News:
At first, I was quizzical about the Ergenekon investigation. The information that was made available at the beginning led me to view this investigation as nothing but a ‘black hole.’ We were face to face with a soup-like situation. Weird and ambiguous allegations flew about and the detainees seemed to have nothing in common with each other.

I repeat that those were nothing other than impressions gathered from press leaks, political analyses, pro/anti-AKP media broadcasts and TV panel discussions.

A genuine soup:

Former soldiers, who had been too arrogant to let themselves to be questioned about the Susurluk Affair, and who had formed associations with sworn in members; retired commanders who, to my mind, could not have achieved anything beyond forming dissident organisations; businessmen; journalists, whose activities had always left me in doubt; scientists; and to top it all, ‘mafia’ leaders and murderers...

As I said, a genuine soup. Ambiguous press leaks poured into the cauldron to ignite a mad witch-hunt or to set off a scalp-hunting expedition...such were the growing and spreading impressions.

The situation was not easy to take in by sectors that refused to take sides in the Ergenekon Affair. They did not know what to make of it.

Another product of this bedlam was the public belief that the AKP government had launched the Ergenekon investigation in order to retaliate for the closure case.

If the allegations have any truth in them, then the coordinators of the investigation and the press leaks have made a serious mistake by discrediting this indictment in this way. They have failed miserably in communications. Let’s not forget that someone leaked this news. The media did not make it all up.

Many people believe that in response to the closure case and the chief public prosecutor’s indictment that lacked concrete evidence, a pro-AKP prosecutor came up with an indictment just as flimsy “to retaliate for the other indictment also based on statements and press articles.” Some retired soldiers, businessmen, NGO chairmen and journalists had initiated a civilian dissident movement in the name of democracy, and this prosecutor had mistakenly perceived this initiative as a ‘takeover conspiracy.’

That’s the general impression formed by a certain sector...No amount of objection will change this view of the Ergenekon Affair held by many people.

However, some people are gradually beginning to review and reassess this impression, except for those who are dead set against Erdoğan and the AKP and want them to be removed from politics and/or from the government all costs.

We are now about to begin the process of putting on trial those that attempted or conspired to effect a military coup.

The Özkök factor:

This investigation took on a different direction especially after the latest statement made by former Chief of Staff Özkök. He appears to be saying –without actually indicating- to the prosecutors, “Be more diligent in your investigations. Things have happened that resemble closely the events described in these diaries. I will also attest to them if necessary.” He does not actually say all this, but that is the impression he gives.

Özkök is preparing to appear before us as the key name and as the most important witness. His statements almost place him in a position to validate this investigation.

Two journalists have been the key instruments in bringing the investigation to this point- Fikret Bila, through his interviews of some commanders, and Murat Yetkin through his very important article that appeared in Radikal last Sunday, have revealed a different aspect of this affair.

It looks as if the Ergenekon case is going to be transformed in some ways into a score settling among retired commanders.

This conflict is thought to be have originated from the 2002 handover of the positions of chief of staff and commanders of various forces and from the events that followed this interchange.

It looks as if this settling of old scores will take place between Özkök and Kıvrıkoğlu, the chief of staff of that time, who openly said that he did not want Özkök to replace him, and who, when he failed to prevent his promotion, had Aytaç Yalman appointed as commander of land forces instead of Edip Başer and Şener Eruygur as the commander of gendarmerie, in order to fill the general staff with the ‘tough’ generals.

This has never happened before. Until now, what happened in the past used to be covered up and pushed into oblivion as part of the fight for democracy.

This will be a FIRST. If Özkök shares with the public the information that he is unable to reveal at the moment, the Ergenekon Affair will be transformed into the first putsch investigation in the near history of Turkey. It will be the first time that the judiciary investigates the allegation of the attempt of a takeover.

This case will affect the country’s future:

If managed well, the Ergenekon case can make important contributions to the near future of this country. This case may cause Turkey to leave behind all fears of gangs and military takeovers. If it is mismanaged, however, it would deepen the existing wounds and open such new ones that we would not be able to get back on our feet for a long time. That is why I wish to elaborate on a few points:

1) The rough interrogation methods have to be abandoned and more importance must be given to communicating with the public. This case is too important and sensitive to be disparaged by rough methods. If the public gets the impression that injustice is being done, the public conscience will reject any result that may follow.

2) This case must not take years. It must not drag on as it happened in the cases against the Peace Society, DISK or the MHP. Justice that arrives too late is of no use to anybody.

3) Judges and the prosecutors must never forget that they are involved in a case of great public interest and one that could shape Turkey’s future. Their decisions must not be based on ideologies or obsessions, but on the principle of a secular-democratic Turkey.
For coverage from the Turkish Daily News, click here.

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