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December 13, 2012, Thursday

Disinformation and a memory (1)

The suspicious death of former President Turgut Özal is still a hot topic on Turkey’s agenda.

Since the State Audit Institution (DDK) took the plunge and launched a fresh investigation into the tragic event and prosecutors reopened the ex-president’s grave to collect samples for analysis, the examination conducted by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) on these samples has been producing much controversy.

Soon after the first tests were conducted, it was rumored that various amounts of poisonous substances were detected in Özal’s body.

Some people who believe Özal died a natural death quickly raised objections to these rumors and they even claimed that the poisonous substances in question had oozed into the body from the soil.

Then, the ATK announced that the poisonous substances found in Özal’s exhumed body were not the type that would contaminate the body from the soil and these types of remarks were justified with reference to the ATK.

We may agree with these comments or come up with our own explanation, but it is quite extraordinary for the ATK to detect traces of poison in the body, and still failed to reach an agreement over the cause of death.

If the ATK is unable to ascertain whether an act of poisoning led to death, then there is no other choice than to refer to an international institution that is capable of doing this.

Turkey has faced a serious disinformation campaign and information pollution as regards the cases against Ergenekon -- a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government -- and against JİTEM -- a clandestine gendarmerie intelligence unit established in the late 1980s to counter ethnic separatism in the Southeast.

The initiative to discredit these cases has largely succeeded. The public’s belief in the legitimacy of the lawsuits filed has weakened over time, but the result was not affected.

The judicial process was full of oddities.

Defendants have refused to accept the charges against them in these cases. During their testimonies in court, some of them ruthlessly threatened the judges and the government. This created increased indecision in the media and in the political will behind these cases.

Still, these efforts to discredit the trails and cause information pollution could not influence the final verdict in the case against the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) action plan. In a week or so, the final verdict will be announced in the Ergenekon case.

As for the probe into the unresolved murders, the situation is completely different and virtually no progress is being made.

Amid these developments, President Abdullah Gül assigning the DDK the task of investigating Özal’s death, the assassination of Hrant Dink and the Madımak massacre -- in which Alevi and leftist intellectuals were killed in a fire in 1992 in Sivas -- seemed to force certain groups to take action to keep Turkey’s dark years firmly in the darkness.

When the DDK was commissioned with the task of probing the Madımak massacre, an odd thing happened and certain groups that previously sided with the victims of this massacre and fought for a fair verdict started to claim that the president is in no position to assign this task to the DDK.

Early in the litigation in the Ergenekon case, there were objections to the specially authorized courts. Today, objections are raised against the DDK.

It follows that those who do not want Turkey’s dark past to be illuminated are still strong.

Perhaps they think if it is proven that Özal was assassinated, this will bring about an irreversible process of settling accounts and confronting the past. I must note I agree with them.

If the ATK had announced that Özal died because of fatal doses of various poisonous substances, this would have been a turning point in Turkey settling with the past.

 We cannot deny that we have already made much progress on the way to this turning point.

But apparently certain groups believe it is too early for Turkey to experience this turning point.

I have run out of room before I can relate my personal memory about Özal’s death. I will share it in my next article.

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