Başbuğ’s speech draws ire from critics after cross-checking facts

Başbuğ’s speech draws ire from critics after cross-checking facts

May 02, 2009, Saturday/ 17:22:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ's recent denial of any possible link between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and various caches of weapons and ammunition that have been uncovered during the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network charged with plotting to overthrow the government, has not convinced the public, according to comments in the Turkish media. At a press conference on Wednesday Başbuğ had said ammunition and weapons unearthed in a number of cities across Turkey did not belong to the TSK.

“None of the weapons or ammunition found in excavations as part of a probe being conducted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office are registered to the TSK’s weapons’ inventory,” he stated.


Since the start of the Ergenekon investigation in July 2007, hand grenades, explosives, light anti-tank weapons (LAWs), rocket launchers, assault rifles and thousands of bullets and various other munitions have been discovered in secret depots in various cities, including Eskişehir, Ankara and İstanbul. The latest discovery came when caches of arms were discovered underground last week in İstanbul’s Poyrazköy neighborhood.

But police found hand grenades, explosives and other weapons at the home of the mother of Fikret Emek, a retired major who was arrested as a suspect in the ongoing Ergenekon case. Emek was tried separately by a military court last December and sentenced to one year, eight months and 25 days in prison for keeping military arms and munitions without permission from the military. The court later suspended the jail sentence for five years. During the press conference Başbuğ stressed that security forces had unearthed five already-used LAWs during the excavations in Poyrazköy. “What would anyone do with used LAWs? No LAW or any other ammunition can be reused. So who buried these used LAWs in the ground? Why did they do so? We are also wondering,” he had said. He did not, however, comment on the nearly 20 ready-to-use LAWs discovered during other excavations or about the other ammunition found in Poyrazköy and elsewhere.

Security Directorate denies link to unearthed munitions

The Security General Directorate announced yesterday that there were no munitions missing from its depots, refuting Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ's earlier allegations the that various caches of munitions that have been found in shanty houses or buried since the start of the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine group charged with plotting to overthrow the government, might belong to the directorate.

Holding a news conference earlier this week, Başbuğ denied any link between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the caches of munitions discovered during the course of the Ergenekon investigation. He said the same munitions were also used by the Security General Directorate and thus could belong to them.

After Başbuğ's claims, all eyes turned to the Security General Directorate to inquire about the buried weapons. The directorate clarified the issue with a written statement yesterday, saying, "There are no munitions missing from the depots of the Security Office." İstanbul Today’s Zaman

Başbuğ was also short and to the point when addressing the subject of retired Adm. Özden Örnek’s private journal, in which the admiral allegedly provides details about plans to stage two military coups. “The General Staff has no documents regarding such claims. Örnek previously said the journal did not belong to him,” Başbuğ said. But the Ergenekon investigation had already determined that the digital excerpts were initially copied from a computer at the Naval Forces headquarters. Also, last week retired Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök provided testimony to prosecutors in the Ergenekon investigation about the coup plans that were mentioned in Örnek’s journal. Başbuğ’s explanation about claims regarding an army general who refused to bring a Cihan news agency reporter, Lütfi Aykurt, onto a military helicopter and left him behind on a mountain in freezing cold weather also failed to satisfy critics. Aykurt did not have press accreditation from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

“What we know about the issue is the helicopter was carrying TSK equipment and was forbidden to take anything or anyone else on board. And, contrary to reports, it was around 13 degrees Celsius when the incident occurred; there was no risk of freezing for anyone. Besides, there were nearly 400 other people on the mountain in addition to the reporter in question, all of whom reached their destination by their own means. A Turkish soldier never leaves anyone in a risky situation,” he said. But another reporter was allowed on the helicopter and, according to Aykurt, the weather was far below 13 degrees and there were not 400 people on the mountain, only two villagers. Başbuğ was also critical of the press for using the term “Ergenekon investigation.” He claimed that naming an investigation is against the law and that the court in İstanbul that is hearing the case has prohibited the use of name “Ergenekon” and  suggested that the case be referred to by its file number. However, the court hearing the case in İstanbul only ruled against the use of the phrase “Ergenekon terror network,” but allowed the use of “alleged Ergenekon terror network.”

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