Voice of the People Party (HAS Party) Deputy Chairman Şeref Malkoç, a legal expert and also a former member of the banned Welfare Party (RP), has said coup plans like Sledgehammer (Balyoz) and clandestine networks nested in the state such as Ergenekon have their roots in the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention, dubbed a postmodern coup.
Last Tuesday Turkey marked the 15th anniversary of the 1997 coup, when a coalition government led by the RP was forced to step down by the military on Feb. 28. In early 1997, uneasy with the existence of a conservative party in power, the General Staff sought ways to do away with the government. The National Security Council (MGK) made several decisions during a meeting on Feb. 28 and presented them to then Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the RP, for approval. Erbakan was forced to sign the decisions, and he subsequently resigned. During this process, the military was purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups.
Malkoç, who was among the close figures to Erbakan during the Feb. 28 period, said: “The mother of [illegal plans and structures] such as Sledgehammer, Ergenekon and anti-government websites [established by the military] is Feb. 28. The illegal structure in the military was established back then.”
Over the past several years, Turkey has been confronting clandestine organizations such as Ergenekon, a shadowy crime network that has alleged links within the state and is suspected of plotting to topple the government, and dozens of coup plans such as Sledgehammer, which was drawn up in military barracks in 2003. The trials of these cases are in progress.
With regard to the military’s anti-government websites, Malkoç refers to the establishment of 42 websites by the General Staff for the sole purpose of disseminating propaganda about the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and religious communities.
Malkoç said just as the contents of anti-government websites were used as evidence in the party closure case against the AK Party in 2008, which was filed over charges of being a focal point of anti-secular activities, the contents of a book written by Yalçın Küçük, a professor who is a key suspect in the Ergenekon case, were used as evidence in the closure case of the RP in 1997, as a result of which the party was closed down in 1998.
Talking about the role of the media in the period leading up to the coup, Malkoç said perpetrators of the Feb. 28 coup were in close contact with some journalists to the extent that they were preparing news articles themselves in the military barracks in Ankara and posting them to İstanbul for some journalists to publish.
Back then, some newspapers ran a large number of stories warning of Islamic fundamentalism to prepare the ground for a military intervention, and some of those stories were cited as evidence by MGK generals in a statement the council issued that led to the uprooting of the government.
“Just because a newspaper failed to take the photos of the military tanks rolling through [Ankara’s] Sincan [on Feb. 4, 1997, in a show of force, which came as an ‘open warning’ to the government of the time], the military sent tanks to Sincan again [to ensure that that newspaper’s photo journalist took the photos],” said Malkoç, in explaining the close relation between the media and the military before and after the 1997 coup.
When asked why Erbakan did not take any action against the military’s plans for a military takeover, Malkoç said: “The then chief of the National Police Department’s intelligence department, Bülent Orakoğlu, made a list of illegal military activities and submitted it to Erbakan. Erbakan later gave this document to [then President Süleyman] Demirel. Demirel received the list and called the chief of General Staff. For his own political aspirations, Demirel collaborated with the military.”
When asked whether it was the military that demanded the closure of the RP, he said: “There was a file on the RP that was sent to the Constitutional Court by the General Staff. I saw the notice about the transfer of this file from the General Staff to the Constitutional Court, but I was not given the opportunity to see it. The file had the signature of then Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Çevik Bir on it and included evidence to ensure the RP’s closure, how important the closure of this party is and how dangerous of a party the RP is.”
According to Malkoç, although it was the judges on the Constitutional Court who ruled for the RP’s closure, they made this ruling under heavy pressure from the military, which used to invite judges and prosecutors to the General Staff and brief them on increasing “religious fundamentalism” in the county.
“Those rulings are a disgrace to the Turkish judiciary; the rulings for political party closures, their approval by the Supreme Court of Appeals and the [controversial] rulings of the Council of State were all made during this period,” he said.
Last week, Malkoç, representing his HAS Party, handed the Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office two CDs of documents containing “evidence,” as Malkoç described it, relating to the Feb. 28 coup investigation and filed a criminal complaint against the perpetrators of Feb. 28.
He said the criminal complaint of the HAS Party is a full-fledged one based on evidence and legal grounds more than being a politically motivated one.
“This is the first time that a political party is taking such an action against Feb. 28 injustice. We bring the victimizations of the people at that time to the nation’s agenda. We want to make sure that such things never happen again in Turkey and that the perpetrators of this coup are punished,” said Malkoç.