Ergenekon infiltrated group to ‘protect regime’

October 02, 2010, Saturday/ 16:44:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Lt. Mehmet Ali Çelebi, a jailed suspect in the Ergenekon case -- a terrorist organization accused of working to overthrow the government – has claimed that he infiltrated the outlawed fundamentalist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) in order to protect the secular regime in Turkey.

Çelebi’s remarks came on Thursday during a cross-examination in the 84th hearing of the trial, which is based on the second and third indictments in the Ergenekon investigation. Çelebi confessed to having become a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and added: “My aim was to defend the republic and act for it. I wanted to hand the members [of the organization] over to justice system. That’s why I obtained books and CDs related to Hizb ut-Tahrir. I stayed in the group for two months, to damage it a much as possible.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a global organization composed mostly of followers of the Salafi sect of orthodox Sunni Islam. The group’s stated aim is to establish a global Islamic caliphate through political means. The party is outlawed in a number of countries, including Turkey.

The Ergenekon trial started in June 2007 after a number of hand grenades were discovered at a house in İstanbul’s Ümraniye district. Dozens of suspects, including members of the military, businessmen and journalists have so far been arrested for suspected links to the terrorist organization.

Also on Thursday, suspect Durmuş Ali Özoğlu, former deputy chairman of the Kuvayi Milliye (National Forces) Association, said he would explain the “reality behind the deaths” of Eşref Bitlis, Cem Ersever,  and Turgut Özal, during the next hearing.

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