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April 10, 2012, Tuesday

Could there be an army that has its officers killed?

Perhaps many said, “This is too much,” when former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ was arrested. And I am sure many people asked whether our military officers would do the things spelled out in the indictment’s allegations -- which include prostitution, forming assassination teams, hiding arms underground, planning to kill people indiscriminately in Fatih Mosque after Friday prayer and detonate a bomb while students were aboard a submarine during a trip to museum.

The surprise here is caused by confusing the true and honorable commanders with the pro-junta figures in the army. Coup-plotting has been an extremely dangerous illness that has taken the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) hostage since the time of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). This has destroyed the chemistry of the army. Promotions have been mostly awarded based on one’s attachment and subscription to the junta’s agenda and priorities rather than merit. Because there was no single junta, those who staged successful coups removed the members of rival juntas from the army. This has been the case since May 27, 1960. Thousands of officers have been expelled from the army since then. For this reason, the armed forces have never been transparent, and no one could ever ask about the promotion criteria used within the military. For this reason, unlawful actions have been acceptable; the pro-junta figures thought this would remain the case forever, believing that nobody would ever question their actions.

This assumption made the pro-junta figures relentless; it was so obvious that these figures first killed colonels and generals they did not like, and then declared these victims had been martyred. I can’t accept that; an honorable and prestigious army does not have its servicemen killed by Yeşils and Bozos. It does not try to cover up its illegal actions. It does not remain silent on such incidents or remain indifferent to such events. For God’s sake, is it possible to imagine an army that has its military officers tortured by civilians and then murdered?

Why am I writing this? Three days ago, an expert witness report on the death of Col. Kazım Çillioğlu, who was alleged to have committed suicide in his lodging house in 1994 during his service as the Tunceli gendarmerie commander, was released. In the 62-page report, it was noted that despite the initial ruling, Çillioğlu did not commit suicide but was instead murdered. The report stated that he had been beaten and his ribs were broken. It also concluded that the signature at the bottom of the alleged suicide note was forged. Upon the request of the prosecutor’s office, the Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Mahmut Yıldırım, known as Yeşil, and Yusuf Gedik, known as Bozo, in connection with the death of Çillioğlu; and later, a red notice was issued for these two suspects.

Let us take a look once more. A commander was murdered by members of a clandestine organization called JİTEM. And this murder was covered up by the claim that it was a suicide. This whole scam to cover up the incident involves the forensic department of the time, a team of experts, the prosecutor’s office and most importantly, high-ranking commanders of the time.

At this point, we should also recall the murder of Col. Rıdvan Özden, who served as the Mardin Gendarmerie Commander. Col. Rıdvan Özden, who was a member of the team led by former Gendarmerie Commander Eşref Bitlis -- who was martyred in an airplane crash --exposed the connection between JİTEM and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the shipment of drugs and smuggled articles. He took action to make sure that legal action was initiated against some military officers. He survived an assassination attempt in Mardin in November 1994. On Aug. 12, 1995, he was murdered along with two guards. His body was buried without an autopsy. As part of an ongoing investigation performed by the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office, his body was exhumed for an autopsy. In the autopsy report, it was noted that there was an imprint of a bullet on the upper part of his skull. However, the General Staff had announced that he had been shot in the forehead.

Believe me, those who have been trying to undermine the investigations into coup attempts, including Balyoz and Ergenekon, and arguing that they were carrying out this struggle for the benefit of the people, will be embarrassed.

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