Now in Turkey PART OF THE NETWORK IS EXPOSED.
A beginner’s guide to Ergenekon, trial of the century
For the uninitiated, the details of the case, frequent and often confusing references to past events that go back as far as 30 years ago.
The relationships between and identities of the suspects and, perhaps most significantly, the meaning most segments seem to attach to the trial might be confounding. This article is intended as a guide to cover the basics about the gang known as Ergenekon and attempts to introduce concepts that might help the reader understand the structure of Ergenekon.
The Ergenekon investigation, in which 86 suspects are currently being accused of various crimes, began in July 2007 with a raid into a shanty house in İstanbul that police discovered was being used as an arms depot. The ensuing investigation revealed a bundle of unholy relationships between very different individuals, various groups with a wide range of and even opposing political ideologies, associations, foundations and past incidents -- such as unresolved assassinations, suspicious bombings or dubious public protests -- which seemed to have been organized by an all-knowing center to manipulate public opinion. The incidents include a surprising number of murders, assassinations and bombings earlier attributed to left-wing groups, to Islamists or to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The basics of deep state structures
But to understand how and why these people came together and for what reason, we need to look at the foundations of the Ergenekon structure, which is thought to be part of a phenomenon known in Turkey as “a state within the state,” “the deep state,” or the “counter guerilla.” Although even the most authoritative researchers cannot agree on a single description for this phenomenon, today we have compelling reasons to believe that the fundaments of this structure were built in the ‘70s.
Assassinations of union leaders, journalists and even a prime minister, and most notably the brutal killings of seven students who were members of the Turkey Workers’ Party (TİP) in Ankara’s Bahçelievler district -- all murders that occurred before the 1980 coup d’etat in Turkey -- were committed by leaders of extreme nationalist grey wolf groups associated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). When officials admitted openly that some of these people had served in Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and some MHP members complained that there were too many MİT agents inside their party, the question arose as to whether the state was feeding terrorism using nationalist youth leaders. Some nationalist youth members who have organized assassinations or provocative attacks for the MİT would, over the years, openly confess their relationship with various state agencies, including the army. One such example is Kartal Demirağ, a nationalist who attempted to shoot President Turgut Özal. Later, he announced that he and his friends had been trained by some retired generals in the ’70s.
Similarity to Operation Gladio
Was there any government involvement in the 1999 Russian apartment block bombings, which were blamed on Chechen terrorists? Were the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks actually an inside job? We do not know. But in both cases, proponents of theories about government involvement in the attacks have had some solid proof. Imagine the chaos, confusion and anger that would occur if government involvement in either of the two cases were officially confirmed. This is what happened in August 1990, when Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti confirmed that a secret army called Gladio (the Italian word for double-edged sword) had existed in Italy throughout the Cold War period. He also said that similar paramilitary organizations were set up with the support of the CIA against communism during the Cold War era in various European countries. Gladio in Italy, where communism was strongest, spread quickly to other countries. As explained by Daniele Ganser, a Swiss historian and researcher at the University of Basel’s history department and author of the book “NATO’s Secret Armies” on the history of Gladio in Europe, the operations were so secretive that most people, including prime ministers, had no idea these networks existed.
But what happened to Gladio in Europe? Once they were over the initial shock, European countries started investigations and dealt with these one by one. In Ganser’s words from an earlier interview with Today’s Zaman: “Well, at first, people were shocked to hear that secret armies had existed in their countries. Here in Switzerland, one parliamentarian said he had lost eight kilograms during the investigation because he was so shocked. He never thought it was possible that a secret army could have existed in Switzerland. In Germany people were shocked, too, to hear that former Nazis were active in these networks, that the CIA trained Nazis was unbelievable for them. So in the beginning it was a shock. But then, when the secret armies were closed down -- if indeed that was the case -- then people were relieved.”
Many analysts today believe such networks in Turkey could be remnants of the Turkish leg of the actual Gladio of the Cold War era. Whatever the theory, Turkey has yet to clean up its own Gladio.
Exposure of the deep state
Former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit was the first politician to learn of the existence of this secret formation. In 1977, he said in a speech that “an organization inside the state, but outside the state’s control” had carried out the incidents of May 1, 1977, when unknown perpetrators opened fire from a hotel on a crowd gathered in Taksim Square for May Day celebrations, killing 36. Ecevit narrowly escaped an assassination attempt 20 days after his statement. Later, the US-made gun used in the assassination attempt proved to be property of the İzmir Police Department and the failed assassin a police officer, but the incident was quickly covered up.
Soon after, there was a coup d’état. Many years passed. In 1996, a car accident occurred. A truck ran into a Mercedes near the small town of Susurluk. A police chief, a convicted fugitive who was an ultranationalist and a deputy were in the Mercedes. The ultranationalist fugitive, who died in the accident, was the man driving the car when nationalist youths killed seven students who were members of TİP in Bahçelievler 18 years earlier. This was the closest Turkey came to uncovering the powerful connections of the deep state, but that chance was lost.
Nine years later, a bombing of a bookshop owned by a Kurdish nationalist in the southeastern town of Şemdinli, during which two members of the Turkish security forces were caught red-handed, gave Turkey another opportunity to shed light on at least some of the elements of the complex deep state network. However, the prosecutor on the case was disbarred by the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges (HSYK) after indicting the land forces commander of the time as being the founder of a gang that was responsible for the Şemdinli bookstore bombing. The three main suspects -- two non-commissioned officers and a PKK informant -- were given nearly 40 years each by a civil court at the end of a lengthy trial process that lasted close to two years. However, in May of last year the Supreme Court of Appeals declared the case a mistrial and ordered the suspects be retried by a military court.
Ergenekon: crimes and members
This is why the trial of Ergenekon is seen as a historic opportunity for Turkey to confront the deep state for the first time. The suspects, 45 of whom are currently under arrest, are now standing trial.
Among the 86 suspects are several retired generals, including one who headed an ultra-Kemalist organization that organized massive anti-government rallies in 2007; other retired army officers; a number of mafia bosses who were also ultranationalist youth leaders in the ’70s and ’80s; an ultranationalist lawyer who filed charges of “insulting Turkishness” against various intellectuals -- including writer Orhan Pamuk -- over statements that fell outside the state line; journalists; drug lords; the spokesperson of a dubious organization called the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate, academics, including the former rector of the İstanbul University; a forensic council expert and others. A number of people currently jailed on charges of Ergenekon membership were also detained or called to testify in the Susurluk investigation of 1996.
The indictment made public in July accuses the Ergenekon network of being behind a series of major political assassinations over the past two decades. The victims include a secularist journalist, Uğur Mumcu, long believed to have been assassinated by Islamic extremists in 1993; the head of a business conglomerate, Özdemir Sabancı, who was shot dead by militants of the extreme-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) in his high-security office in 1996; secularist academic Necip Hablemitoğlu, who was also believed to have been killed by Islamic extremists, in 2002; and a 2006 attack on the Council of State that left a senior judge dead. Alparslan Arslan, found guilty of the Council of State killing, said he attacked the court in protest of an anti-headscarf ruling it had made. But the indictment contains evidence that he was connected with Ergenekon and that his family received large sums of money from unidentified sources after the shooting.
The indictment also says Veli Küçük, believed to be one of the leading members of the network, had threatened Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist slain by a teenager in 2007, before his murder -- a sign that Ergenekon could be behind that murder as well. Küçük was also detained, but later released in the Susurluk affair of 1996.
Suspects began appearing in court as of Oct. 20, facing accusations that include “membership in an armed terrorist group,” “attempting to destroy the government,” “inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey” and other similar crimes.
More questions on Ergenekon
Is Ergenekon being administered from a single center? Or are we faced with renegade groups that have links with other terrorist organizations, such as the PKK, whose links with the MİT have also been exposed? Are its members all ultranationalists who think they are doing the best for the country? Or are there those who are in it for the money, illegal business privileges, the prestige or the sheer thrill of it all? Do the militants in other armed groups in Turkey realize that all their actions might have been ordered by their leaders only to serve the purposes of Ergenekon and not their cause? Some of these questions have certain answers, while others are not yet known by anyone. The secrecy, the vastness of the organization, its long life, its successful penetration of every level of the state and every segment of society make for a highly tangled bundle, which may take years to extricate.
Some believe that the Ergenekon trial is only a shake-up of the greater organization to get rid of its elements that have been exposed or compromised. The prosecutors, they claim, are actually working for that cause. Given the history of Gladio and the deep state in Turkey, this theory is a possibility, although, one might optimistically add, an unlikely one. An overwhelming majority of writers, journalists, researchers and politicians believe that the trial is not another long con on the part of deep state masterminds, and that this is Turkey’s chance to really confront its own Gladio.
|E. BARIŞ ALTINTAŞ İSTANBUL|
keywords: Israel Mossad KGB BND CIA ONI NSA NRO DIA MI6
undercover alpha 66 team MLK JFK RFK