Friday, January 6, 2012

A Historic Arrest

PHOTO from Hurriyet

For the first time in Turkey's history, a former Chief of General Staff has been arrested. Ilker Basbug, who resigned from the post in August 2010, is charged with masterminding an attempt to overthrow the AKP government by setting up website that would spread propaganda aimed at ultimately bringing about an end to the party's almost 10-year hold on power.

Word of the potential arrest appeared earlier this week when news broke that a probe launched by an Istanbul prosecutor into the website conspiracy included Basbug. 22 other suspects, including seven generals, have been identified by the prosecutor as allegedly creating black-ops websites setup by the Turkish Armed Forces to disseminate fallacious rumors that would eventually bring about the overthrow of the government.

The website conspiracy began to surface this August when Col. Dursun Cicek confirmed the authenticity of a document outlying a plan to use the websites for propaganda purposes and said the operation was under the control of the General Staff, which was at the time of the document's production headed by Basbug. Days later Rt. Gen. Hakan Igsiz was arrested and allegedly testified that Basbug was responsible for the campaign. At the time, Islamist-oriented Yeni Akit called for Basbug's arrest.

Hurriyet columnist Ismet Berkan breaks down the history of the website conspiracy. In 2000, Bulent Ecevit called on state institutions to act against Islamist and separatist propaganda. According to Berkan, the General Staff responded to the call by setting up dozens of websites to do just this. When the AKP came to power in 2002 the websites released multiple stories highlighting the party's alleged anti-secular activities, many of which turned up in Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya's 2008 indictment to close the party. The websites made news in 2009 when Taraf ran a story about the websites that linked them to the General Staff.

It is hard to believe that the generals in question thought they could overthrow the government using websites, and as to Basbug's role in the affair, he alleges to have closed down many of the sites when he took power over the institution. Just what is going on here is still widely speculated, and should make for an interesting week ahead.

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