Columnist released but questions remain in investigation

The indictment file is recorded two days before the prosecutor filed the charges, indicating that the detainees knew about the closure case before it was announced by the prosecutor.

Columnist released but questions remain in investigation

A copy of an indictment bill against the government party was found on the computer of one of the 14 people arrested on Friday over alleged links to a criminal network with suspected ties to the military and the bureaucracy, newspapers reported on Sunday.

On Friday, 14 individuals from various left-leaning but ultra-nationalist groups -- including İlhan Selçuk, a columnist for secularist daily Cumhuriyet, senior members of a small political party and a former university rector -- were taken into police custody in dawn raids as part of an ongoing investigation into a criminal nationalist network that calls itself Ergenekon.

On Sunday, daily Taraf reported that a copy of the indictment filed on March 14 by Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was found on a computer belonging to one of the suspects. The indictment file is recorded two days before the prosecutor filed the charges, the daily said, indicating that the detainees knew about the closure case before it was announced by the prosecutor. There has been speculation since the closure case was filed that the case to shut down the AK Party is an effort to intimidate the ruling party, which has started to clamp down on illegal gangs.

Selçuk's detention sparked protests, with critics saying that the 83-year-old columnist should not have been detained in a dawn raid, accusing the government of turning the Ergenekon investigation into a witch hunt against its political opponents. Selçuk was released Sunday morning, reportedly after President Abdullah Gül spoke with Cumhuriyet executives and said he was "surprised and saddened" by his detention. Two other well-known detainees, Workers' Party (İP) Chairman Doğu Perinçek and former İstanbul University Rector Kemal Alemdar-oğlu, were still being interrogated yesterday by police. Selçuk, who declined to comment on his detention, is not permitted to leave the country until the investigation into him is completed.

Selçuk's lawyer, Akın Atalay, spoke to the press on Saturday after his client's release, saying that he and his client would not make any statements or share with the media the exact reasons for Selçuk's being taken into custody, due to the obligation to respect the investigation's confidentiality. But newspapers yesterday reported him saying that he was "more sharpened," that is ready for retaliation, than back in 1971, when he was detained and brutally interrogated during a military intervention in politics that forced out of the civilian government of the time.

The ongoing investigation previously uncovered evidence showing that the gang was attempting to prepare the groundwork for a coup d'état in Turkey in 2009. Ergenekon is suspected of links to groups hidden within the state. These groups are commonly referred to as Turkey's "deep state," a vague concept of a phenomenon in which individuals and groups occupying various state positions take justice into their own hands to shape Turkey in accordance with their political convictions.

Speaking to a meeting of the leaders of the AK Party's regional branches on Saturday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Operation Ergenekon was similar to Italy's "Clean Hands" investigations in the early '90s, when Milan's prosecuting magistrates swept through Italy's political system and rooted out so many dirty politicians and businessmen that in the end they brought down the system itself. The investigations uncovered a series of bribery scandals, many leading politicians, civil servants and prominent businessmen being convicted of similar crimes. All of Italy's political parties were involved in this link of corruption, Clean Hands showed. Prime Minister Erdoğan said no shady deals would be left unearthed under his government.

Figures from the neo-nationalist front in Turkey were bitter about yesterday's arrests. Many of them, including Support for Modern Life Association (ÇYDD) President Türkan Saylan and the chief editor at television channel Ulusal, which was also a target of the raids, Yalçın Büyükdayıoğlu, stated their opinion that the detainments were outrageous, claiming the AK Party was taking revenge on the secularists for insisting on banning the headscarf on university campuses.

Erdoğan, in a speech he made on Sunday during a visit to the Aegean port city of İzmir, meanwhile, responded to claims that the Ergenekon operation was a settling of accounts between the secularists and the AK Party. "We have never been on the side of tension and we are not on the side of tension now. We never appreciated those who tried to create tension."

Background on Ergenekon

In January 39 people were arrested as part of an investigation following up on a police raid on a house being used as an arms depot in İstanbul last June. Those arrested included retired Maj. Gen. Veli Küçük, also the alleged founder of an illegal intelligence unit in the gendarmerie, the existence of which is denied by officials; controversial ultranationalist lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz, who filed countless suits against Turkish writers and intellectuals who were at odds with Turkey's official policies; retired Col. Fikret Karadağ; Sevgi Erenerol, the press spokesperson for the so-called "Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate"; and Sami Hoştan, a key figure in an investigation launched after a car accident in 1996 near the small town of Susurluk uncovered links between a police chief, a convicted ultranationalist fugitive and a member of Parliament. Ali Yasak, a well-known gangster linked to figures in the Susurluk incident, was also detained in the operation.

The group is also suspected of involvement in the murder of journalist Hrant Dink in January of last year, a shooting at the Council of State in 2006 that left a senior judge dead, a hand grenade attack on the Cumhuriyet daily's İstanbul office and recent non-fatal attacks on two priests. The number of people in custody on suspicion of having links to the gang is said to have surpassed 50 with the recent detentions, sources say.

Today's Zaman

Last Mod: 24 Mart 2008, 07:24
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