The ongoing investigation into the Ergenekon gang may lead the way to a brighter and more democratic Turkey if those holding the political power in the country are willing to act with determination.
The investigation started last June when police discovered a house being used as an arms depot in İstanbul. It has since revealed a plot to prepare the groundwork for a military coup against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The gang is suspected of being behind a number of political attacks, including the murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and the shooting of a senior judge at the Council of State, and it is believed to have ties with shadowy elements in Turkey's military and bureaucracy, known as Turkey's "deep state." The latest chapter in the ongoing investigation was opened on Friday, when two senior officials of a Turkish political party, a former university rector and the chief columnist of a daily newspaper -- all known for their ultranationalist and ultra-secularist leanings -- were taken into police custody over alleged links to Ergenekon.
But will Turkey be able to carry out its own "clean hands" operation? Emre Uslu, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Utah's Middle East Center, says the beginning of the investigation is more important than where it might lead.
"The beginning of the operation -- the earlier arrests -- show that the prosecutor has some strong evidence."
"If the government, the media and the AK Party stand firmly on this -- if they support the prosecutor -- then the outcome would be great for Turkey," Uslu tells Sunday's Zaman.
"In earlier investigations, defamation campaigns have been started against prosecutors. Today I read similar allegations about the current prosecutor. It remains to be seen how these developments will unfold," Uslu says. He adds that it depends on the will of society in general for reaching the end of the dark tunnel of the deep state.
Another indicator is that large businessmen's organizations and some of the mainstream media outlets have taken a stance closer to the neo-nationalist front, something which Uslu says represents an unusual pattern. "Normally, the business world aligns itself with the government. We are talking about a party elected to power with 47 percent of the vote, but the media seem to have been turned against them," he said, highlighting that is a suspicious situation. In other words, perhaps there is a reason why some businessmen and media outlets chose to invest in the nationalist front, such as having hopes or expectations that the tide will turn. The Ergenekon gang may be just a small part of a much larger plan that is shared by a powerful segment of society.
Asked whether the recent closure case against the AK Party could be a response or retaliation to the Ergenekon investigation, Önder Aytaç, an associate professor at Gazi University's department of communication, responds, "No, I wouldn't say that." In a brief phone interview with Sunday's Zaman, Aytaç explains that both the court case against the government party and the Ergenekon case are related, but only as separate parts of a much bigger plan. "Things like this must have happened in the '60s, '70s, '80s and even the '90s. But at the time, there was no one among the police or security forces to break down that structure."
"It is very important that the AK Party stand firmly on this point," Aytaç says, adding that, unfortunately, it has not stood so firmly previously. "If you speak of democracy, but don't stand up for the Democratic Society Party [DTP] [which is also facing closure], then you can't complain when the same thing happens to you."
Aytaç stresses that the AK Party has recently made the mistake of emphasizing "freedoms" only in relation to the headscarf. "When you say you are for freedoms, you should be protecting the rights and freedoms of everyone, including the DTP, women with mini-skirts and gays and lesbians, not just the headscarf."
Yet Aytaç is still hopeful. According to him, Turkey has the chance to cleanse the state of Ergenekon-like formations, "so long as the political power stands firmly."
Tamil Tayyar, the Ankara representative of the Star daily and the author of a book titled "Operation Ergenekon," told the Haber 7 news channel that Friday's arrests would fill in many gaps in the investigation and eventually reveal the bigger picture. He also said he expected to see more arrests of journalists, suggesting that the Ergenekon structure had connections to the media.
"Since he has taken them into custody, the prosecutor must have sound evidence," he said. Tayyar said the prosecutors are doing a great service for the country and that they should be supported at all costs.
The latest detentions may lead the state to settle scores with gangs that have infiltrated it, said Ümit Kardat a former military prosecutor who is now a lawyer.
"If the political authority displays determination in the fight against gangs in general and against the Ergenekon gang in particular, then this will signal a difficult process that Turkey will have to go through. But the end result will be positive," he said.
However, if the allegations that the AK Party has accelerated the Ergenekon investigation to take the steam out of the recent closure case opened against it, Kardaş says, it is unlikely that any such cleansing of the state would take place.
"In order to convince the public of the seriousness of cracking down on these gangs, the political authority should act with determination," he says.
He adds that Turkey has been going through a difficult period, as the fight between those seeking to further the cause of democracy and those who resist such changes has seen a resurgence.
But if the ongoing fight results in the victory of those seeking the good of the country, then the difficult process will be worth the effort, Kardat says.
He warns, however, that there is a possibility that Turkey may have to go through a violent period, though he says such a period would be short lived. If Turkey shows determination in this difficult process, the anachronistic forces within the state may do whatever they can as a last resort.
As Sunday's Zaman went to press, Workers' Party (İP) Chairman Doğu Perinçek, İP Secretary-General Ferit İlsever and Cumhuriyet daily chief columnist İlhan Selçuk, as well as former İstanbul University Rector Kemal Alemdaroğlu, were still under detention over alleged links with the Ergenekon gang.
In January 39 people were arrested as part of an investigation following up on a police raid last June on a house being used as an arms depot in İstanbul. Those arrested included retired Maj. Gen. Veli Küçük, who is also the alleged founder of an illegal intelligence unit in the gendarmerie, the existence of which is denied by officials; the 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 that uncovered links between a police chief, a convicted ultranationalist fugitive and a member of Parliament. Ali Yasak, a well-known gangster linked to the figures in the Susurluk incident, was also detained in the operation.
Küçük has been accused of organizing extra-judicial killings of Kurds in the 1990s, but he has never stood trial. His name was also implicated in the Susurluk incident.
Last Mod: 23 Mart 2008, 09:50