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April 03, 2011, Sunday

The bar Zekeriya Öz has raised

Prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, who launched the Ergenekon investigations, has been appointed somewhere else. He was promoted to deputy chief prosecutor, but since he was also stripped of his special authority, he no longer has any connection to the investigations he has been conducting.

Those who have been trying hard to depose Öz do not hide their cries of joy. Those who believe the Ergenekon case is the driving force behind our democratization process seem to be confused. And those who have recently been parroting, “Ergenekon investigations are OK, but this prosecutor has gone too far this time,” are shedding crocodile tears.

First of all, we must all acknowledge Öz made some bold moves no one else would dare under very difficult conditions. If we go back in time to when the Ergenekon probe was first launched, this assertion makes better sense. “Untouchables” who had previously refused to testify even to Parliament were brought to justice. It was not easy to convince media networks that as usual sided with the powerful and tried to undermine the investigations. At that time, a prosecutor could not bring an indictment without risking his/her career at the hands of the old Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Besides, Öz deserves praise not only for his courage, but also for his legal intuition. He could have created a military theft or a similar case file out of the hand grenades seized in Ümraniye, which would end up on a shelf waiting for the statute of limitations to run out.

It is said that Öz raised the bar to a certain point in the judicial community. It would be misleading to take this bar as mere courage. True, these case files have ensured that the judicial community regained its self-confidence. But more importantly, they reinforced efforts to look at incidents from different angles and beyond the obvious. Still, to give all the credits to prosecutor Öz would be unfair to all those involved in the process. In this context, extraordinary efforts of police officers, judges and the general public should also be acknowledged. Perhaps, we should give the lion’s share to his family, especially considering the fact that one of his children’s bodyguards has been arrested on charges of membership in Ergenekon. Also, it should be noted, Doğan Öz, who has a similar surname, had been murdered as he was trying to investigate suspicious activities of groups clustered within the state’s military mechanism in the 1970s. Öz became a symbolic personality as he gave the first spark. We must also mention the judges who accepted and started the trial, the police officers who worked hard to collect evidence, and the public officials who created a suitable working atmosphere for the prosecutor. The government’s stance, too, should be noted. That Öz managed to remain in his office as long as he did is the result of all of these factors combined.

 Now, we have to look to the future. Backpedaling from the Ergenekon cases is virtually impossible. Those who refer to the case of Susurluk are right in voicing their concerns. But, actually what happened with respect to Susurluk is a guarantee that the same thing will not happen today. We learned our lesson when defendants who were supposed to be sentenced to life imprisonment were given light sentences because the court judges hearing the case were assigned to other positions. The general public will be alert and vigilant so that Susurluk does not repeat itself. Prosecutors will try not to lower the bar raised by Öz. The chief prosecutor and the HYSK gave assurances about the removal of Öz from office, which we have all noted down. The general public has invested heavily in these cases. I think pro-Ergenekon camps are counting their chickens before they are hatched. Well, they may be just boasting when they say, “Yes, we finally deposed Zekeriya, and it is enough for us.”

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