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September 05, 2008, Friday

TSK visit to Ergenekon suspects raises eyebrows

A visit paid on Wednesday by a member of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), Kocaeli Garrison Commander Lt. Gen. Galip Mendi, to two suspects in the Ergenekon terrorist organization case, retired Gen. Şener Eruygur and retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon, who have been under arrest since July for alleged involvement in the Ergenekon gang, has been met with much amazement and skepticism in the Turkish media over the message the TSK meant to give.The retired generals are accused of being members of the Ergenekon gang which is suspected of orchestrating various murders and attacks with the intention of creating chaos that would trigger a coup. A statement issued later by the TSK about the visit, saying that the visit to two retired generals who had served in the TSK for a long time was made on behalf of the TSK, raised further eyebrows on whether the TSK was standing up for the Ergenekon suspects, a step that is feared to influence the course of the judicial process in the Ergenekon case.

Zaman's Mümtaz'er Türköne says that although the TSK had stressed in its statement that it has full confidence in the Turkish judiciary in an attempt to avert criticism that the TSK wants to influence the judicial process in the Ergenekon case with this visit, this cannot prevent the interpretation of this visit as an intervention into an ongoing legal case. He contends that public officials who have weapons in their hands have a bigger responsibility vis-à-vis their loyalty to the law than other state officials who do not have weapons. "How can the prestige of a bureaucratic institution be preserved when it uses the power it has to bear arms -- granted to it to protect the country - to bestow privileges on its members in the face of the law?" asks Türköne.

Milliyet's Fikret Bila thinks the visit to the Ergenekon suspects was encouraged by new Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ as an attempt to erase the widespread belief held by the public that the TSK has abandoned the generals [Ergenekon suspects] who had spent years in fighting terrorism. In light of this, he interprets this visit as an indication of professional and institutional solidarity among TSK members.

Radikal's İsmet Berkan casts the visit as a "delayed attempt to intervene in the judiciary." He believes this because this visit was not made on behalf of a person but in the name of the TSK.

Sabah's Nazlı Ilıcak says that if Turkey were a country where the principles of democracy are operating smoothly, this visit and the TSK's attitude would not have much significance; however, this is not the case. Ilıcak wonders how new Chief of General Staff Gen. Başbuğ has allowed his name to be remembered as that of a general who backed retired generals involved in coup plans. "Turkey has changed. It is no longer that easy to stage a coup or to support it. I advise Gen. Başbuğ to take as an example retired Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök, who prevented coup attempts by generals within the TSK during his term, and not former Chief of General Staff Gen. Kenan Evren, the perpetrator of a military coup in 1980, and to not occupy Turkey's agenda with superficial issues," Ilıcak says.

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