’If Susurluk had been solved, we would not be facing Ergenekon’

’If Susurluk had been solved, we would not be facing Ergenekon’

Fikri Sağlar

September 28, 2008, Sunday/ 12:39:00
Former Culture and Tourism Minister Fikri Sağlar, one of the most active members of the parliamentary commission set up to investigate a 1996 car accident that led to the discovery of links between the state and criminal elements, has said if a journal kept by former Naval Commander retired Adm.

Özden Örnek detailing plans for a coup in 2004 had not been investigated as part of the Ergenekon criminal network, the illegal criminal network would not have been revealed.

Sağlar maintains that Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal, who said, "I am Ergenekon's lawyer," is a member of this illegal criminal network with ties to the state whose suspected members are accused of having planned and staged attacks and assassinations with the ultimate goal of toppling the government.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday's Zaman, he noted that politicians who attempt to deal with gangs within the state invite trouble and that these gangs have members in every political party in Turkey.

Noting that politicians who had in the past demanded that Parliament investigate an organization codenamed "Counter-Guerrilla" -- a clandestine army under the command of the Turkish Special Forces which was given the task "to organize resistance in the event of a communist occupation" -- are not in active politics today, Sağlar said: "This is no coincidence. This applies both to leftist and rightist politicians. Anyone who attempted to deal with this business has left their political career." Sağlar stressed that if the Ergenekon investigation can be properly handled and concluded, it will lead to Turkey's independence.

He argued that the Kurdish issue cannot be solved through the use of arms. "The Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK] feeds off of political mistakes in Turkey. Everything is done to maintain the armed struggle," he said. Sağlar spoke to Sunday's Zaman about recent developments.

Why has Turkey failed to unearth these illegal networks within the state?

[Former Prime Minister] Bülent Ecevit was the first politician to learn of the existence of the Counter-Guerrilla. Knowing this caused him much trouble. Indeed, many politicians who attempted to fight against the Counter-Guerrilla suffered the same fate, including me. We are the sort of politicians created by this system. When we attempt to combat these networks, some forces emerge to push us outside politics. It is clear that they still do this today. If you look closely at Baykal's behavior and actions, you will understand which side he is on. Baykal and the executives around him hinder politicians like us who are against this system and who advocate that democracy should function with all its institutions and that sovereignty should unconditionally belong to the nation, in which the rule of law is to be upheld in contradistinction to the bureaucratic military state proposed by the Ergenekon network.

Hidden hand blocks politicians

How are such politicians hindered?

Politicians who had in the past demanded that Parliament investigate the Counter-Guerrilla are no longer active in politics. This is no coincidence. This applies both to leftist and rightist politicians. Sadık Avundukluoğlu, the chairman of the parliamentary commission on investigating murders by unknown assailants; Mehmet Elkatmış, the chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating the Susurluk Affair, a car accident that revealed a questionable partnership between a former police chief, a mafia leader and a former parliamentary deputy who also headed a Kurdish family clan in the Southeast and was armed by the state to fight the terrorist PKK; and Sabri Ergül, an active politician who rallied against Counter-Guerilla and a former member of the CHP, are not active politicians today.

Akman Akyürek, a former judge and Susurluk Commission rapporteur, died in accident in İstanbul on Dec. 9, 1997. Bedri İncetahtacı, a former Virtue Party (FP) deputy and Susurluk Commission spokesperson, died in a traffic accident on the road to Esenboğa Airport in Ankara on Nov. 21, 1999. Several passports and ID cards were found in the house of Akyürek.

Has anything happened to you?

I had two serious accidents in 1999. But if I only tell you about how I was expelled from the CHP, it will suffice. When the Sixth State Security Court (DGM), deliberating over the Susurluk case, held that there is an illegal network within the state and that its leader is Korkut Eken, Eken told TV cameras: "Fikri Sağlar caused us to be punished. We will take our revenge." Two days later, the CHP started procedures for my expulsion from the party. Today, if you ask the CHP why I was expelled, they are unable to give a satisfactory answer.

Are there extensions of this network in the CHP?

Today's CHP is a party that accepts the e-memorandum and military coups. It has been transformed into a party that defends Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 301, the 1982 Constitution -- a constitution drafter following the 1980 military coup. In other words, it has become a body whose policies stand in contrast to the rule of law, democracy, rights and freedom. Unfortunately, such a party cannot be called a left-wing party. Voters who support the CHP are not like this, but its executives nurture this mentality.

So you're saying voters who support the CHP still think that it is a leftist party?

Since its establishment by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who opposed imperialism and established the republic, it has been considered a leftist party. When you assert that the CHP is not a leftist party, then name another party that is. But you cannot. After Erdal İnönü left politics, the Democratic Left Party (DSP) became the top party of the left wing. If the CHP was really able to be a leftist party at the time, Ecevit would not have been able to make the DSP the greatest party of the left wing in the 1995 and 1999 elections.

How do you think the gangs are formed within the state?

In 1950, following Turkey's NATO membership, the Counter-Guerrilla network were created as an official, but illegal, organization in Turkey. These networks were termed "Gladio" in other NATO countries. They were originally established to counter the communist threat but continued to exist despite the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anti-communism associations were transformed into the Ülkü Ocakları. The Republican Peasants Nation Party (CKMP) mutated into the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) overnight. Organic links were established with the Ülkü Ocakları. These organizations would in any other country be termed Nazi remnants. This clandestine organization was modified into a youth club, which later affiliated itself with a political party.

At the time, they used the MHP for their own purposes. Then they sought more security by penetrating into more parties. Indeed, we saw that the Susurluk network infiltrated first into the Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) and then into the True Path Party (DYP). NATO countries in Europe purged themselves of these clandestine organizations but only two countries failed to do so: Germany and Turkey. In Germany, the Baider Meinhoff gang was destroyed in prison. Such networks in Italy, France, Spain and other countries were uprooted. The politicians and deputy chiefs of general staff who were involved were punished, but a complete cleansing could not be done. During the Clean Hands operation, the Italian gendarmerie held an armed celebration as if to challenge the operation. This implies that only a part of the network was cleaned while the rest remains.

The PKK feeds off of political mistakes in Turkey

Why did the Susurluk investigation fail?

In the Susurluk affair, the only innocent parties that were not involved in the illegal activities within the state were those coming from the Milli Nizam (National Order) legacy. These parties were marginalized by the state. In fact, these networks were established to also fight against them. The greatest ill fortune for the Welfare Party (RP) was that DYP leader Tansu Çiller was in a coalition with them. If at that time then Prime Minister and RP leader Necmettin Erbakan had not treated Susurluk as an insignificant matter but put state organs to work to solve it, many things could have been unearthed in the immediate wake of the accident. He, however, listened to his coalition partner and rejected the existence of this network in order to protect his partner, who was deeply involved in these dirty affairs. Then came Feb. 28, 1997. That network staged the Feb. 28 process and since he was unable to resist the Feb. 28 process, we now face Ergenekon.

Does this network have members in all parties?

One of the Special Forces commanders has said: "We have deputies from every parliamentary party. We had deputies even in the CHP." This network does not make any distinction between leftists and rights. It seeks protection from every ideology. In the past, leftists would hardly be involved in such networks. It was easier to integrate rightists in these networks by luring them with a nationalist discourse. But today no such distinction is possible. All are involved in the affair.

Rightist parties acted as lawyers for Susurluk just as Baykal is acting as a lawyer for Ergenekon?

Exactly. If you treat gangs in this way, you cannot solve anything. People who serve as the links in the chain might get punished, but the real network cannot be unearthed. The right or left label cannot be applied to gangs and terrorists. This case should not be viewed from an ideological perspective. These people must be seen as members of an illegal network and individuals who have partaken in illegal activities.

Was this struggle against the PKK used as a justification to preserve this network in the post-Cold War era?

The PKK feeds off of political mistakes in Turkey. Everything is done to maintain the armed struggle. The Kurdish issue cannot be solved through the use of arms. In the final analysis, some of the PKK members are citizens. It is illogical to try to "correct" these citizens through the use of arms. Counterterrorism has created new enemies, enemies that enable this clandestine network to reinforce its strength. If you are internally divided into groups and fail to secure social peace, this gives the greatest impetus to such networks as they use this disunity to their advantage.

For this reason, there is an ongoing effort to create enemies in society. Rifts such as those that exist between Kurds and Turks, between Alevis and Sunnis, between secularists and anti-secularists, between the urban folk and the rural folk and even between neighborhoods are made more salient. A culture of submission is being instilled in place of democracy. As long as these divisions and a culture of contention exist, we will continue to serve these networks, not to democracy. For instance, for many years, kids who were born in the western parts of the country were taken to the dirty war in the Southeastern. This triggered the division between Kurds and Turks and it was done intentionally.

You seem to be gloomy about the future of the Ergenekon investigation.

On the contrary, I am hopeful about it, but I have worries as well. Some people are trying to give the impression that whoever opposes the prime minister or the government is included in the Ergenekon case file and this the biggest obstacle to a solution for Ergenekon. The authorities should get rid of this impression. If this cannot be done, this case will not be solved. If you arrest many people and then start to release them one by one, you will be unable to find out who the mastermind behind this network is. If you keep some of them in prison while releasing others, you will not uncover the truth. With a 2,455-page indictment and an additional indictment of some 10,000 pages as well as ongoing waves of detentions, this affair has yet to be solved. The government must be extremely determined to eliminate this network.

If the authorities can get rid of this impression, do you think the network will be purged?

There are two fundamental accusations in the Ergenekon investigation: that a terrorist organization was established and that it was/is attempting to overthrow the government and Parliament. You can substantiate the terrorist organization claim by the 28 hand grenades that were seized in Ümraniye, İstanbul. But your point of departure to prove your claims about overthrowing the government is the journal that allegedly belongs to Örnek and details the plans of senior generals in office in 2004 to stage a coup against the government. However, it has not been included in the case file. It has been said that the journal will be included in the supplementary indictment.

Will it be included?

I hope so. It has been said that it will be submitted to the court before the case begins. If this is done, it will be a significant step forward. Otherwise, the most important ingredient of the case will be lacking. This is the defective side of the indictment. The justification presented is an attempted coup.

Does the offense of rendering the government ineffective through the use of force comprise a military coup?

You cannot render a government ineffective without staging a coup. Rallies or protests cannot be regarded as attempt to overthrow the government. This is against the spirit of democracy. Such logic would rip Turkey of its quality as a country governed by the rule of law. Only the May 17, 2006 Council of State attack can be produced as evidence for the accusation of paving the way for a coup, but it is not strong evidence.

Generals must be tried in civil courts

Where should the generals be tried?

They must be tried in civil courts. I spoke about this with military judges. In the final analysis, this is a coup attempt. The offense of changing the Constitution and destroying the constitutional order has nothing to do with military laws. They must be prosecuted according to universal rules of law. Indeed, had they managed to overthrow the government, these universal rules of law would have been suspended.

Of what significance was the official visit on behalf of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to retired generals Şener Eruygur and Hurşit Tolon?

The visit was restricted to two retired generals. Only Gen. Eruygur and Gen. Tolon were visited, but another general held at the same prison, retired Gen. Veli Küçük, was not. Gen. Küçük, too, was a general and a former member of the TSK. Why wasn't he visited? I find this considerably meaningful.

Does the Ergenekon network have external links?

If the Ergenekon investigation can be properly handled and concluded, this will spell Turkey's independence. This is where Turkey's full independence lies. If Turkey can conduct a trial according to its own laws, then this means it is independent. Turkey no longer has its own economy. The economic players are outside of Turkey. At least the politics and the law of a country should be independent. Considering how Turkey obtained the permission of the US for the Nov. 5, 2007 cross-border operation into northern Iraq, we can no longer speak of Turkey's independence.

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