You also probably know that there are dozens of trials continuing under this title in Turkey. Mainly alleged military coup attempts and their perpetrators have been on trial in these cases. But of course there are also so many other elements that have been investigated and put on trial, namely the “preparatory work” which aimed to pave the way for planned coups. Various assassinations and mass murder plans have also been investigated in these trials, for example.
Since the beginning of the cases, there has been an intense debate and polarization about whether these cases genuinely put people on trial in alleged coup attempts or whether they are political in nature, merely designed to punished people whose only crime was to be against this government.
I myself developed some serious criticism about these cases. My criticism focused on two main shortcomings of these cases. The first is about the usually known and sometimes exploited one; there were serious procedural mistakes in these cases, like those that exist in so many other cases handled by specially authorized courts: the broad definition of being a member in a terrorist organization, the arbitrary usage of “secret witnesses” and the unfair limitations of the right to defend oneself and others.
But I also criticized these cases from different angles most critics have just ignored. There are so many people behind bars in the Ergenekon case who are also implicated so many atrocities in the past. For example, most of the “prominent” founders of JİTEM, which is clandestine, bloody, illegal extension of gendarmerie that killed so many Kurds in the Southeast, have never been investigated for their past crimes but instead have been put on trial for being a member in Ergenekon and for their alleged work for coup preparations. This is also a serious injustice I believe. However, what is quite interesting to observe in Turkey is this: The people who criticized Ergenekon cases for procedural mistakes have never mentioned a word about the content of these cases. These people are the representatives of bar associations, columnists and some intellectuals who quite often appear in the media. When you listen to them, you can easily get the impression that these cases were brought against completely innocent people who have nothing to do with coups or anything else.
And after five years, day in, day out, listening to their endless propaganda, people in Turkey have even forgotten how all these cases started. Even the very beginning of these cases told much about the reality in Turkey: 27 hand grenades were seized in a house in one of the suburbs in İstanbul by the police, who acted on a tip off. Later on it was found that these hand grenades belonged to a group and there should have been 30. Where were the three missing bombs?
Later on, it became clear that these three bombs were thrown into the offices of the Kemalist nationalist newspaper Cumhuriyet, which is also a staunch defender of secularism in Turkey. All these bombs came from the barracks of the land forces in Ankara. And the house in which these bombs were found was associated with a retired member of military.
Apparently, these people were trying to create one of the well-known forms of provocation in Turkey by creating the image that this newspaper was bombed by Islamic fundamentalists. Interestingly enough, one of the bombers later turned out to be the assassin in the bloody attack on the Council of State in 2006, which left one judge murdered and many wounded. This attacked provoked mass demonstrations and anger across the country because people believed that judges were targeted because of their secular stance, as they had confirmed the ban on headscarf.
When the investigation went deeper, it was understood that the assassin was quite close to and was given orders by Veli Küçük, one of the founders of JİTEM. The police followed the links and found another large arsenal in Eskişehir; the links lead another one in Ankara. Apparently all these weapons and ammunition were going to be used in similar provocations. To see the power of propaganda, ask people in Turkey if they know this story, namely the beginning of the Ergenekon investigation. I guarantee that you will find very few people who remember all of this information. But you can find many people who can tell you the shortcomings of these cases without knowing their content. I think this is one of the most successful examples in the world showing how far propaganda can go and what it can achieve.