When the calendar read May 17, 2006, Turkey woke up to a major shock. A lawyer named Alparslan Arslan had shot Council of State Second Chamber Judge Mustafa Yücel Özbilgin. The chamber that was attacked had made a controversial ruling regarding the Islamic headscarf. Those investigating the attack found a column from the Vakit daily about this ruling in Arslan’s vehicle. According to allegations, the attacker yelled, “God is great,” as he pulled the trigger. The judges who were injured in the attack, however, denied this. But some groups continued to claim that the attack was targeting the “secular regime.” Turkey suddenly found itself in complete chaos. The president at the time, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal made statements condemning the incident as an attack against secularism. The public was bombarded with articles, news clips and other materials themed around the headscarf, religion and Islamic reactionaryism. Although new evidence and information regarding the attacker seemed to point in another direction, this did not slow down the campaign. During Özbilgin’s funeral at Kocatepe Mosque, there was an attempted attack on the ministers representing the government. The entire scene smelled of a conspiracy and an attempt to create the desired atmosphere for a military takeover.
Thankfully, the attacker was caught, in what could be described as perhaps the most important development to preserve our democracy in the history of the republic. After Arslan’s capture, it was found out that the perpetrators were the same people who staged a hand grenade attack at the Cumhuriyet newspaper. Later it was discovered that the hand grenades had been given to them by some of the suspects being tried in the trial of Ergenekon, a criminal gang with allegedly links within the state. New evidence also suggested that the attackers were apparently not religious.
Concealing the truth
Despite all the evidence, the trial of the suspects at the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court was ridden with peculiarities. The prosecutor’s indictment was based on charges of “trying to destroy secularism and the constitutional order.” Both Arslan and the other suspects seemed to act accordingly. The lawyer’s father, İdris Arslan, who had in his initial comment said, “Son, how could you do this?” started saying that his son was fighting on the path of God. Pictures of his mother and sister wearing headscarves were published in the media. The attack was in fact included as evidence in an indictment against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). However, the Ankara court was ignoring very serious evidence suggesting a strong connection between the case and Ergenekon.
In spite of this, the truth was to be revealed in complete clarity when the Supreme Court of Appeals declared a mistrial in the case heard by the Ankara court. When the case was merged with the trial of Ergenekon suspects, more and more evidence proving the link between Council of State attackers and Ergenekon came to light. Currently, the suspects are standing trial with Ergenekon suspects in Silivri. However, the surviving victims of the attack at the Council of the State remain suspiciously silent in the face of these new developments.