Intellectuals call for deepening of Ergenekon investigation

Three hundred Turkish intellectuals, including leaders of various civil society groups, artists, bar association presidents, journalists and academics, have released a petition calling on authorities to shed light on all the relations of Ergenekon, a shadowy criminal network with ties to the state whose suspected members are accused of having planned and staged attacks and assassinations with the ultimate goal of toppling the government.

Turkey's past experience shows that such powerful networks involving figures nested in various layers of the state structure -- a phenomenon commonly referred to as the deep state -- are usually protected by their associates in the security forces or the judiciary. The intellectuals who signed the petition yesterday asked authorities to do everything in their power to not allow such protection. The petition called for a deepening of the Ergenekon investigation, demanding that no one be allowed to obscure the case. The petitioners said the Ergenekon investigation is an opportunity for democracy. The petitioners had diverse reasons for backing the document. Diyarbakır Bar Association Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu told Today's Zaman, "Here is the real emphasis of the petition: We encountered two similar incidents earlier," referring to the Nov. 9, 2005 bombing of a bookstore in the southeastern town of Şemdinli that revealed a gang formed of groups in the gendarmerie and to a traffic accident near the northwestern town of Susurluk that exposed suspicious links between a police chief, an ultranationalist mafia boss and a southeastern deputy who was also the head of a Kurdish clan fighting separatist terrorism on the side of the Turkish state. He stressed that in both cases the investigations had been crippled before they could yield results.

“Both of these incidents were covered up. Turkey should not miss this opportunity again. We should go to the end, wherever that end might reach. This shouldn’t be like the other cases,” he said. However, he added that the most important element for a courageous investigation into Ergenekon was a courageous government and politicians. “The alleged crimes and the state mentality that is the cause of them should be exposed,” he emphasized, adding, “This is not something the prosecutor can do by himself.”
The petitioners believe that the opportunity to become a gang-free society, which was missed in the Susurluk and Şemdinli incidents, may have presented itself again. Believing that the real winners in this case will be the citizens and “our democracy and future,” the intellectuals invite everyone who wants to live in a country where democracy, freedom and the rule of law are upheld to follow the case closely. Tanrıkulu said the opportunity to find Ergenekon’s connections in the military was there at the time of the Susurluk investigation 13 years ago, as well as two years ago in the Şemdinli case, but both chances were wasted. “We should use this opportunity wisely,” he said. He added that is more of a democratic environment in Turkey now than at the time of Susurluk.
Political science professor Baskın Oran said the petition had not initially been opened to the public. “It was a petition for a narrow circle of people. But now it is being opened to the public due to demand after known public figures signed it.”
Oran also criticized Turkey’s leftists, who are standing back from the Ergenekon investigation so “the Justice and Development Party [AK Party] cannot reap the benefits,” jokingly adding, “Half of them should be fried and the other half should be grilled.”
“I am worried that the AK Party might have agreed on a secret deal with the military to not expose those Ergenekon members who are in the military,” said Ayşe Hür, who also signed the petition. Hür recalled that in a recent court case against the AK Party over allegations of anti-secularism four Constitutional Court judges from a military background voted against closing down the ruling party. She also said it was curious that the military, which normally dismisses a number of officers every year for anti-secularist activities, did not dismiss anyone. “Of course, I don’t approve of dismissals, but I would like to see some transparency if they are going to happen. It was curious that they didn’t have any this year,” she said. Hür said she feared that the government and the military might have secretly agreed to let the Ergenekon investigation proceed only to a certain point. “This signature, for me, sends the message to them that we are watching.”
Writer and left-wing journalist Ertuğrul Kürkçü said he read parts of the Ergenekon indictment and concluded that the number of defendants should have been higher. According to Kürkçü, retired Adm. Özden Örnek, a former navy commander whose alleged diary revealed the detailed plans of senior generals serving in 2004 for a coup against the government, should also be among the defendants: “I would like to see Özden Örnek among the defendants. There are also officials who were involved in the Susurluk affair who have been left out, as well.”
Kürkçü stressed that Turkey needs to face up to its recent history, which has seen many brutal episodes.
“The indictment claims that the investigation can go back to the events of May 1, 1977 [when many people were killed at a Labor Day demonstration in İstanbul’s Taksim Square]. If it hints at that, it should go after this fact and bring it before the judiciary,” he added.
The declaration calls upon all of Turkey’s institutions, both civilian and military, to show the necessary determination to keep the case alive and follow it to reveal the rest of Ergenekon’s connections. Academic Beril Dedeoğlu, who also signed the petition, said the media had addressed the sensational details of the Ergenekon indictment, but not its core. “It should go beyond Veli Küçük. I have a feeling that the indictment will not go beyond some of the names already disclosed,” she said.