Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Ergenekon Arrests

Detentions of 10 military officers in conjunction with the Ergenekon investigation resulted in Gen. İlker Başbuğ, Chief of Turkey's General Staff, calling a meeting Wednesday that included the heads of each branch of Turkey's armed services. After the meeting, Başbuğ met with Prime Minister Erdoğan. The officers were arrested with 20 other individuals amidst doubt that the investigation into "deep state" forces -- long hidden away from public scrutiny -- would go much further. From Emrullah Uslu at EDM:
It appears that the TSK was expecting the operation. The Ankara Central Command reportedly told the security units of the military compounds where active and retired generals live not to allow police and prosecutors to enter the compounds, even with a search warrant, without the command's permission (Taraf, January 9).

As usual, the Ergenekon investigation has once again divided Turkish intellectuals into two camps. On the one hand, Kemalists and neo-nationalist intellectuals argue that it is politically motivated. They maintain that it is no coincidence that the government opposition is the target of the investigation. Some of the pro-Ergenekon intellectuals went so far as to call the arrests of such well-known people “state terror” (Hurriyet, January 8). Chairman of the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) Deniz Baykal harshly criticized the investigation, claiming that it was an attempt to change the Turkish state regime. Baykal even saw parallels to the developments during the preparatory stages of the Islamic Revolution in Iran (Aksam, January 8).

On the other hand, some intellectuals say that the Ergenekon investigation is a well-organized investigation and a golden opportunity to punish those who plot against the civilian government (Sabah, Yeni Safak, January 9).

The police reportedly have video tapes of meetings where military plots against the AKP government were discussed (Taraf, December 19). Although these reports need confirmation; it is no secret that Tuncer Kilinc was the first person to advocate that Turkey leave the U.S. and EU camp and form a new pact with Russia and Iran (see EDM, December 2). The Ergenekon network believes that a military coup is the only way to control the government (Sabah January 9).

The recent arrests took place at a time when people had started asking whether the prosecutors could really go any deeper. The recent wave of arrests has shown just how serious the prosecutors are about investigating the Ergenekon network. The wave of arrests has triggered deep concern within the TSK leadership. After the long meeting with other commanders, it appears that Basbug wants to intervene in the due process of the Ergenekon investigation and trial. It will not be the first time that he has actively taken the side of Ergenekon suspects. The day of his appointment as Chief of the General Staff he sent a general to visit retired Generals Hursit Tolon and Sener Eruygur at the prison where they were being held awaiting trial.
The investigation known into Ergenekon is impenetrable for even the most expert in Turkish politics, and media coverage and information released by the government and police is heavily influenced by partisan politics. Both the New York Times and the Financial Times ran brief stories on the recent arrests. For a feel as to just how entangled the politics of Ergenekon are in terms of the government's relationship with the military, read this analysis by Bill Clark, a professor at King's College. The controversies surrounding Dağlica and Aktütün are both documented in this blog, as is the evolving relationship between AKP and the General Staff since the closure case.

Also, perhaps useful, though of course not free from bias, is a recent account by TDZ documenting the investigation from its beginnings last January.

UPDATE 1/10 -- A weapons cache was found in the home of İbrahim Şahin, a former head of the National Police Department’s Special Operations Unit and one of the total of 36 arrested on Wednesday. From TDZ:
The operation started when Şahin, whose phone conversations had been tapped by police for at least two months, recently gave the order to finalize plans to assassinate Armenian community members in the city of Sivas. Twelve others were detained in Sivas during Wednesday’s operation. Police also found evidence that the group was plotting to kill prominent figures including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Former Chief of General Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt, Police Department Intelligence Unit Chief Ramazan Akyürek, journalist Fehmi Koru, author Orhan Pamuk and some politicians, including members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP).

The fields brought to mind a large number of depots of NATO arms found buried during an investigation launched by Italian prosecutor Felice Casson, who discovered the existence of Operation Gladio, a NATO stay-behind paramilitary force left over from the Cold War. In a panel discussion he participated in in İstanbul last April, Casson said these weapons were found buried in cemeteries, under churches and even in caves. Ergenekon is also thought to be a remnant from the original Turkish Gladio, which was founded against a possible Soviet invasion during the Cold War, but later turned into an organization trying to cut off Turkey's ties with the West. The retired generals arrested in the Ergenekon investigation seem to have an anti-European Union and anti-NATO stance favoring a closer relationship between Turkey and Russia and Eurasian nations.
The article further speculates that the uncovered cache might be linked to violence in the Gölbaşı district of Ankara following the infamous Susurluk incident, the most significant happening since the 1980 coup to raise serious question about the existence of Turkey's deep state.

Also, see Gareth Jenkins' quote in the Guardian yesterday:
Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based expert on Turkish security affairs, said: "The army will have issued a stern warning to the government to back off and that this has to be the last of such arrests. Most of those arrested on Wednesday were not involved in the Ergenekon plot.

"It was just a political move, and has destroyed any hope that the probe will find the real culprits. The question is what happens next. What we are going to see is a power struggle between two fundamentally undemocratic forces using their influence in the judicial system."


Anonymous said...

I wonder why Jenkins sounds so sure. Today's Boston Globe editorial also seems alarmist. I wonder if all this is mere speculation based on publicly available news or if someone's feeding these people additional info.

Ragan Updegraff said...

It does indeed, and thanks for posting it. It did not find its way into my feeds. With all sorts of accusations, hypotheses, and varying analyses flying through the Turkish press, I also find it hard to believe that foreign press has any clear idea what is going on either. As to Jenkins, the question is certainly worth asking.

Anonymous said...

ergenokon strugle between pro eu,abd and pepole who has strong support among turkish elite for euroasia which is real alternative to eu.i think turkey drop eu membersip.all that time and money wasted to get in eu.