The Ankara Prosecutor's Office has decided it lacks jurisdiction with regard to a 2004 coup plot allegedly drafted by a former naval forces commander – previously sent to Ankara by an İstanbul prosecutor -- and returned the case file to the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office, linking the diaries to the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer probes.
In what was considered a controversial move by many, İstanbul Prosecutor Mehmet Ergül decided he lacked jurisdiction on the file and sent it to Ankara last October. Ankara Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Hüseyin Görüşen, who had been examining the file since then, announced his decision yesterday and sent the file back to İstanbul, indicating that the diaries are related to the ongoing probes into Ergenekon -- a suspected clandestine criminal gang charged with plotting to overthrow the government -- and the Sledgehammer coup plot.
The file concerns the alleged coup diaries of former Naval Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek. In April 2007, weekly news magazine Nokta published excerpts from a diary, which it said belonged to Örnek, containing details of coup attempts dating back to 2004. An investigation was launched following the allegation -- not into Örnek and his coup plans but into Nokta Editor-in-Chief Alper Görmüş. The newsweekly was shut down several weeks later after a police raid on their office.
Ergül’s move to separate the coup diaries file and send it to Ankara was surprising for many since the coup plots mentioned in the diaries were being investigated by İstanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, who was then the main prosecutor in the Ergenekon probe. Prosecutor Ergül reportedly requested the file from Öz in August to determine if the case is related to the Sledgehammer plot, another coup plan that emerged early last year. Then-İstanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı gave the file to Ergül, who reportedly did not give the file back to Öz due to a “heavy workload” and sent it to the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office after two months on the grounds that the coup plot is not related to the Ergenekon probe. The fact that Ergül was not part of the Ergenekon investigation raised questions about the prosecutor’s decision and was interpreted as an attempt to remove coup diaries from the Ergenekon case.
According to the Nokta report, Örnek, a disciplined journal writer since 1957, recorded every detail about the plan by Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman, Air Forces Commander Gen. İbrahim Fırtına and Gendarmerie Commander Gen. Şener Eruygur, who today heads the Atatürkist Thought Association (ADD), to stage a coup they termed “Blonde Girl” in 2004 when they were still in the military but gave up due to the unwillingness of some higher-ranking officers, the US attitude at the time and the democratic stance of Hilmi Özkök, the then-chief of General Staff. Örnek’s journal suggested that Eruygur then planned a coup by himself that he called “Moonlight.”
Allegations regarding the coup diaries were included in the second indictment of the Ergenekon trial in 2009. The commanders, the prosecution claimed, formed a group called the Republican Work Group (CÇG), which would mastermind and oversee how the plans were being implemented. In December 2009, Örnek testified to Prosecutor Öz and Prosecutor Fikret Seçen as part of the Ergenekon probe. During his interrogation, Örnek denied possession of the journal.
Örnek, Yalman and Fırtına are all suspects in the ongoing probe into the Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan, a suspected coup plan devised at a military gathering in 2003 that allegedly sought to undermine the government in order to lay the groundwork for a military takeover.