On Friday morning (21 March) at 4 am, more people were taken into police custody in relation to the Ergenekon case. There are said to be 12 people involved, among them Dogu Perincek, chair of the Workers’ Party, Ilhan Selcuk, columnist at the Cumhuriyet newspaper, as well as Kemal Alemdaroglu, former rector of Istanbul University.
There have been 37 previous arrests in the investigation into the ultranationalist Ergenekon gang, which is said to have planned a coup d’état for the following year. There are also suggestions that the gang was involved in the attack on the State Council in 2006, and perhaps also the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.
Furthermore, some of those arrested previously are linked to the Susurluk scandal which rocked Turkey in 1996, when a car accident revealed connections between police, mafia and politicians. Ever since, Turks have been aware of the so-called “deep state”, which rules the country behind the screen of a democratically elected government.
The first evidence of a criminal organisation came in July 2007, when a weapons arsenal was found in a home in Ümraniye, Istanbul.
Among the 37 arrested at the beginning of the year were retired general Veli Kücük, retired colonel Fikret Karadag, ultranationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, Sevgi Erenerol, press spokeswoman for the so-called “Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate”, and Associate Professor Emin Gürses.
Kemalists question motivation behind latest arrests
The latest detentions have been contested by members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as well as Kemalist supporters of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, who protested in the streets of Istanbul on Saturday.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been accused of trying to relate the Ergenekon case to the attempt to close the AKP.
Deniz Baykal, chair of the CHP, said, “Turkey is being pushed into a dangerous conflict.” He accused the AKP of “trying to build its own ‘deep state’.”
“This cannot go on like this. There are natural limits to this. Turkey’s law and people are paying the price for these developments.”
Former CHP MP Bülent Tanla likened the events to the Hitler period in Germany.
Prof. Dr. Erol Manisali, lecturer at the Istanbul University economics faculty, told the private Sky Türk channel, “I could not believe it. This means that some powers in Turkey have pressed the button.”
He added, “The powers which have interests in Turkey and our region, as well as their extensions, really want to make things tense in Turkey. In time, we will understand this.”
Hürriyet journalist Yalcin Bayer told Sky Türk that anyone whose telephones were bugged may be taken into police custody in this manner. He added that the current broadcasting and publishing ban on the case prevented anyone from finding out real information.
“Because of the ban on broadcasting and publishing, your lawyer does not know what the other side is saying and cannot make comparisons. I don’t know where this is leading to. Turkey is slowly moving towards darkness. If it is even a crime to defend one’s patriotism, then that means we have come to a very dark point.”
CHP’s Izmir MP Ahmet Ersin said, “The people who arrested in such a hurry are respected individuals. If their statements need to be taken, they could have been called at a suitable time. This is an attempt to change the agenda from the AKP closure attempt. There may be other undemocratic developments now. The AKP is trying to create its own deep state.”
After being questioned, Workers’ Party Dogu Perincek was arrested, as were Ferit Ilsever of the Ulusal TV channel, Serhan Bolluk, the editor-in-chief of the Aydinlik magazine, and journalist Adnan Akfirat.
Perincek has been accused of “being a leading member of the Ergekon terrorist organisation and of acquiring and having secret state documents in his possession.” He has ben taken to Bayrampasa prison in Istanbul.
Alemdaroglu and Selcuk released
The Istanbul Duty 11th Heavy Penal Court decreed that there were “strong suspicions of guilt” against former rector Alemdaroglu, seen in the picture. However, because of his age and health he was released under control. He will have to register with is local police station every two weeks.
83-year old Cumhuriyet columnist Selcuk was also released after questioning. He is not permitted to leave the country.
In today’s Radikal newspaper, Selcuk’s lawyer Fikret Ilkiz said that Selcuk was asked whom he knew of those investigated, who came to the Cumhuriyet newspaper office. He was also asked about some telephone conversations, which, so the newspaper, had been recorded.
Journalist Ugur Dündar, who visited Selcuk at his home was quoted as saying, “He is accused of being the intellectual leader of the Ergenekon gang. Daily conversations, jokes with the newspaper on the telephone had been recorded for a long time.”
Businessman Ibrahim Benli, who had also been detained, was released by the prosecution. (EÖ/GG)