Gareth H. Jenkins, the author of âœBetween Fact and Fantasy: Turkeyâ™s Ergenekon Investigation,â which many pundits find to be too one-sided, spoke yesterday at a conference in Washington on the Ergenekon trial sponsored by the Ari Foundation.
The ArÄ± Foundation, a civil society organization previously known for its liberal stance and contributions to the normalization of civilian-military relations in Turkey, sponsored a conference on Wednesday at a US Congress office building, criticizing the investigation into Ergenekon, a gang classified by prosecutors as a terrorist organization that attempted to stage a coup against the government.
Ergenekon is known as a terrorist organization in Turkey, suspected of countless atrocities, all committed in the hope of overthrowing the democratically elected Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, but its supporters are trying to brand the trial of suspected Ergenekon members as the governmentâ™s attempt to suppress its opponents.
The ArÄ± Movement, known up till now for its liberal mentality favoring freedoms, may be joining these efforts on an international level, as its affiliated ArÄ± Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., sponsored a discussion on the Ergenekon investigation at the Rayburn House Office Building of the US Congress on Wednesday.
A keynote speaker attending the conference was British journalist Gareth H. Jenkins, the author of a report on Ergenekon titled âœBetween Fact and Fantasy: Turkeyâ™s Ergenekon Investigation.â Jenkinsâ™ report has been found by many pundits to be too one-sided in its criticism of how the investigation is being handled. On the same day, Jenkins talked at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute (CACI), part of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of The Johns Hopkins University at a forum titled âœFrom Rhetoric to Reality: Prospects for Turkeyâ™s Future and the AKPâ™s Authoritarian Tendencies.â
In his speeches, of which Todayâ™s Zaman had a Turkish translation, Jenkins defended the idea that the US administration should pressure the AK Party regarding Ergenekon. âœItâ™s pretty much like a childrenâ™s story; the emperor has no clothes. The investigation has no clothes. The emperor is naked. There is no such organization,â Jenkins said, claiming that Ergenekon was not real.
He said he believed 15 or 20 of the suspects might be guilty of certain crimes. He declared his verdict saying, as translated into Turkish, âœFifty to 60 are ultranationalists, but they have not really committed any crimes. And the rest are completely innocent.â
Jenkins said Turkey has a long history of secret organizations, defined as âœdeep stateâ structures and Gladio-like organizations, but said there was no evidence to back the allegation that Ergenekon was part of the âœdeep state.â He said most of the perpetrators of thousands of killings -- organized by an illegal and secret organization inside the gendarmerie known as JÄ°TEM -- of Kurds in the Southeast in the 1990s have not been apprehended as part of the Ergenekon investigation.
In both of his presentations, Jenkins stated that the indictments against the Ergenekon suspects were poorly drafted; adding his opinion that the evidence presented was inadequate. He said for this reason, Turkey had missed the opportunity to have its own âœclean-hands,â the name of an extensive corruption operation into the remnants of the Gladio in Italy carried out in the 1990s.
He also expressed the opinion that it is not Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸanâ™s government that is the driving force behind the trial, but the GÃ¼len movement. He also criticized the Zaman and Taraf newspapers, which have provided extensive coverage of plots against democracy. Jenkins claimed that the âœmain factorâ in the Ergenekon investigation was to âœdamage the reputation of the governmentâ™s opponents.â
During the conference held at SAIS, the instituteâ™s research director, Svante Cornell, raised the question of what the US could do to reverse the situation in the Ergenekon case. In response to this question, Jenkins said the US administration openly criticizing the Ergenekon trial could be âœtwistedâ and lead to new conspiracy theories, suggesting that the best way to talk to the Turkish government was behind closed doors, and not directly to ErdoÄŸan -- who he said, according to what was translated into Turkish, is a âœshort temperedâ character -- but to others who are more likely to listen.
Dr. Cornell also spoke at the SAIS meeting. In his speech, he said there was no system of checks and balances in Turkey to prevent the AK Party from developing authoritarian tendencies.
Jenkins said he was deeply worried about the future of democracy in Turkey.
20 November 2009, Friday
ALI H. ASLAN WASHINGTON