While the court ordered the arrest of 11 suspects early on Thursday, including retired and active duty generals, four individuals were released, as the probe into what is popularly known as a postmodern coup deepens.
Sixteen active duty and retired military officers and one civilian were detained on Tuesday in the fourth wave of operations in the Feb. 28 probe, which saw police raid their homes across nine provinces. Prosecutors referred 15 of the 17 suspects to court for arrest on Wednesday. The Ankara 11th High Criminal Court ruled for the arrest of 11 suspects, including Lt. Gen. Tevfik Özkılıç, Maj. Gens. Berkay Turgut, Mehmet Faruk Alpaydın and Erdal Şenel, Brig. Gens. Celalettin Bacanlı, Mehmet Ali Yıldırım and Metin Keşap, retired. Lt. Gens. Hakkı Kılınç and Mustafa Bıyık, and retired Gens. Çetin Dizdar and Çetin Saner. Saner was the head of military intelligence at the time of the 1997 coup. He is believed to have threatened Interior Minister Meral Akşener with being “impaled” in the event of the generals coming to power, in order to make the minister “toe the line.”
The suspects are all accused of playing a major role in the Feb. 28 coup, in which the military forced a coalition government led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP) out of power on the grounds that there was rising religious fundamentalism in the country.
The court ruled for the release of the rest of the suspects, including retired Staff Col. Erkan Yaykır.
The suspects were simultaneously interrogated by eight of the nine specially authorized public prosecutors at the Ankara Courthouse. According to media reports on Thursday, the suspects were asked about the structure and activities of the controversial West Study Group (BÇG), which was established within the military to categorize politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats according to their religious and ideological backgrounds before and after the coup.
May 5, Saturday
Two Turkish journalists, writer Adem Özköse of Turkey’s Milat newspaper and freelance cameraman Hamit Coşkun, who were detained while covering the Syrian uprising two months ago, are expected to be released in a few days, one of their colleagues said. Turgut Alp Boyraz, foreign editor at Milat, said the two telephoned their families and that an Islamic aid group based in Turkey was involved in negotiations in Damascus for their release.
May 6, Sunday
Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said nine security officials were given administrative punishments for negligence in failing to prevent the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Responding to parliamentary questions about Dink’s murder, Şahin said five officials were sentenced to forfeit a certain amount of their monthly salary, three were given motions of censure and one was given a warning. He said no investigation was allowed for eight officials, prosecution was decided against for another 31 and two were acquitted by a court.
President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on Syria is getting weaker by the day and “victory is close,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an address to thousands of cheering Syrians who have fled Assad’s brutal crackdown on an anti-regime uprising.
May 7, Monday
Prime Minister Erdoğan said Turkey can start discussing a possible switch to a presidential system while preparing its new constitution. “As you know we are now in the process of writing a new constitution. Whether Turkey can adopt a presidential or a semi-presidential system can be discussed during this process,” Erdoğan said, adding that Parliament would have the final say on the issue. His remarks came after Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on the same day that Turkey should discuss a possible switch to the presidential system.
The first hearing of the new trial merging all existing investigations into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network which has alleged links within the state and is suspected of plotting to topple the government, began with 256 suspects standing trial.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in Sunday’s elections by his socialist rival. Progress is expected during the term of the new president-elect, François Hollande, in Turkey’s stalled talks for full membership in the EU. However, there is concern that as the 100th anniversary of the events of 1915, when thousands of Armenians died in the Ottoman Empire, approaches, there might be new tensions. Armenia wants the 1915 incidents to be recognized as genocide, and France, which had adopted a law criminalizing the denial of genocide this year but which has since been overturned by a high court, backs these claims. Sarkozy relied on the Armenian issue extensively as material for his campaign despite a promise that he would not do so. Relative improvement between the two countries’ relations is expected during Hollande’s term.
A commission formed to investigate Israel’s actions in intercepting a flotilla to Gaza in 2010 said civilian authorities should review Israel Defense Forces (IDF) probes, arguing that the military should not be the sole authority to examine its own conduct when it is accused of human rights violations.
May 8, Tuesday
Despite Interpol issuing a red notice for Iraq’s fugitive Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, currently in Turkey, Ankara is not expected to arrest Hashemi and return him to Iraq. Lyon-based Interpol officials said Tuesday’s move came at the request of the government in Baghdad, which has charged Hashemi with terrorism and accused him of running death squads that targeted government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims. In response to questions about the issue at a press conference in Italy, Turkey’s prime minister said Hashemi has initiated an appeal against the action taken by Iraqi officials with Interpol. “We have given him all kinds support on this issue, and we will continue to do so,” he said.
Turks continue to have uneasy feelings in the German city of Erfurt, the capital of the eastern state of Thuringia, where all the prime suspects of the neo-Nazi serial murders of 10 people, including eight Turks, were born and grew up. “Our people are in a state of fear,” said Bülent Canpolat, speaking to a Turkish delegation composed of lawmakers and media professionals at the Center for Migration and Integration (Das Zentrum für Integration und Migration in German or ZIM) in Erfurt. “There are still incidents going on here, albeit minor ones,” he added, referring to racially motivated attacks against immigrants, mainly Turks, who comprise the largest minority in Germany with some 3 million people.
A joint committee of experts announced that there was no evidence suggesting that students who were hospitalized after drinking milk handed out to students as part of the government’s free milk project were poisoned due to contaminated milk. Some 1,000 students from schools in several provinces were hospitalized last week after drinking milk provided via the government’s free milk program. The milk was suspected of being contaminated.
Born of a 1960 coup, Turkey’s OYAK army pension fund has become a potent symbol of military economic power with interests from cement to car production. Now, as the generals’ political influence dwindles with arrests and coup trials, OYAK is attracting unwanted attention. OYAK Chairman Yıldırım Türker, a retired lieutenant general, is sitting in jail awaiting trial on accusations dating back before his chairmanship to a 1997 “soft coup” that forced an Islamist-led government from power. The employees of an OYAK security firm stand charged in connection with another coup plot, and a parliamentary sub-commission has begun scrutinizing its activities after complaints from OYAK members.
May 9, Wednesday
Iraq’s fugitive Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, for whom Interpol issued a red notice, said he plans to stay in Turkey until the ongoing political crisis in Iraq is resolved. The Iraqi vice president, who is currently in İstanbul, said he did not have direct talks with Turkish officials following Interpol’s red notice, but rather had “indirect talks.” “Statements by high-level Turkish officials [against the arrest warrant] confirmed Turkey’s support for me. I am thankful to Turkey on this issue,” Hashemi told a Turkish TV station on Wednesday. “I hope this political problem [in Iraq] is settled soon.”
A majority of people in Turkey have voiced support for a number of ongoing investigations and legal cases in which suspected perpetrators of coups d’état are being brought to trial and believe that prosecutors should take action against all actors behind coups and launch new probes against coup actors who have gone untouched until now, according to the results of a new monthly opinion poll. A full 67.7 percent said they find the trial of suspected coup actors “right and necessary” while only 27.1 percent disagreed. The survey was conducted by Professor Özer Sencar, Professor İhsan Dağı, Professor Doğu Ergil, Dr. Sıtkı Yıldız and Dr. Vahap Coşkun for the Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center.
A new bill submitted to Parliament by the government suggests vital changes to the organization and structure of the military, including allowing civilian experts to serve as contracted advisors to the chief of General Staff on military strategy and affairs. The government submitted the new bill as part of an ongoing process of civilianizing the military that has gained momentum in recent years. If the new bill passes, up to 10 experts on military affairs could be employed at the request of the chief of General Staff.
May 10, Thursday
Council of State President Hüseyin Karakullukçu voiced support for a switch to a presidential system in Turkey, saying his court considers the system to be “democratic” for Turkey’s standards, in a speech delivered at a ceremony held on Thursday to mark the 144th anniversary of the establishment of the Council of State.
Head of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) Erol Ekici has finally spoken out about allegations that the killing of 34 people during a May Day celebration 35 years ago by snipers who opened fire on crowds gathered in İstanbul’s Taksim Square was the result of warring factions among left-wing groups, saying the discussion was part of a larger campaign to slander the Turkish left.
Twenty-six people, including nine active duty military officers, were taken into custody on Thursday as part of an operation launched in the western province of İzmir against a military espionage gang. The suspects are accused of involvement in the gang as well as prostitution, blackmail and espionage. The operation was carried out by the İzmir Police Department’s Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crimes Unit early in the morning. News sources said the gang is headed by a 25-year-old woman who studies at Pamukkale University in Denizli. The gang is accused of hiring foreign women as prostitutes for military officers from whom they obtained military information.
The possibility of invoking the right to military protection of Turkish borders against threats from Syria under Article 5 of the NATO charter is still on Turkey’s agenda, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selçuk Ünal said during a press briefing on Thursday that Turkey’s expectation from Syria is that it halt the violence as soon as possible to prevent further instability.
May 11, Friday
Evidence obtained during searches of locations related to individuals suspected of being members of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) terrorist network -- an umbrella organization that encompasses the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) -- indicates that in Şanlıurfa, KCK members had compiled intricate lists of people in most neighborhoods, indicating the political inclinations of the members of the households.
Cihan Kırmızıgül, a 22-year-old student at İstanbul’s Galatasaray University, was sentenced to 11 years, three months in prison by an İstanbul court on Friday on charges of membership in the terrorist PKK, possession of explosives and causing damage to private buildings.
The president’s office, the Prime Ministry and the Turkish Parliament have all told an Ankara court hearing the Sept. 12, 1980 coup trial that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) did not provide them with any intelligence about the military’s plans to stage a coup prior to the Sept. 12 coup. All three institutions sent a response to the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court, which had asked them whether they had been informed about coup plans in 1980, telling the court that there are no documents in their archives showing MİT provided intelligence regarding coup plans.