The reassignment of the head of the National Intelligence Organization’s (MİT) İstanbul regional branch to a post at MİT headquarters in the capital has sparked many questions over the root cause of the move, leading to speculation that there is a link between the reassignment and the recent MİT crisis or that it occurred as a result of the official’s link to a match-fixing scandal, some media outlets have reported.
Questions and speculation have flared over the possible motives behind the reassignment of the official, İsmail Nişancı. Some media outlets have claimed he was recalled to the capital for his role in the controversy over the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) terrorism probe, while others have offered different explanations.
According to a report that appeared in the Radikal daily on Friday, the reason behind the reassignment was not the crisis between judicial authorities and intelligence officials over the KCK probe. The daily noted the decision was made at the beginning of February, but its implementation was delayed due to the MİT crisis in which five top officials were unexpectedly summoned by an İstanbul prosecutor.
Two weeks ago, an İstanbul specially authorized prosecutor summoned five MİT officials -- current MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, former MİT Undersecretary Emre Taner and his deputy Afet Güneş and two other MİT officials, Yaşar Yıldırım and Hüseyin Kuzuoğlu -- to testify in the ongoing investigation into the KCK.
But the move sparked a political standoff and prompted countermoves by the government to defuse the crisis. Government officials noted that the prosecutor overstepped his authority.
The Radikal daily said that İsmail Nişancı informed Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım, one of the prominent figures in the match-rigging probe, of the probe several days before it was launched.
After the crisis cooled down, Nişancı’s reassignment to the capital was publicized. The daily claimed MİT officials fended off speculation over the link between his reassignment and the recent political skirmish between state institutions.
However, the daily claimed the reassignment had something to do with the match-fixing scandal that surfaced in July and has rocked Turkish football. Within the scope of the probe, prosecutor Mehmet Berk, who is overseeing the case and wrote the indictment of 93 suspects, questioned Nişancı in August over his phone conversation with Yıldırım.
Media outlets reported at the time that Nişancı spoke with Yıldırım on the phone several days before the probe began and warned him to be careful, saying that an investigation had been launched against him.
Meanwhile, Nişancı was not included on the list with the other 93 suspects, despite concrete evidence that he had had a phone conversation with the Fenerbahçe chairman.
In line with the Radikal daily, the Taraf daily also touched upon Nişancı’s phone conversation with Yıldırım in its coverage of the reassignment case, which fueled suspicion and speculation over the cause of the move. However, the daily focused in its coverage on the issue of the wiretapping of its reporters by MİT’s İstanbul regional branch during Nişancı’s term.
MİT tapped the phones of several Taraf journalists using court orders in which the journalists were only mentioned by their foreign codenames, the Taraf daily reported on Feb. 9.
According to Taraf, the phones of Taraf Editor-in-Chief Ahmet Altan, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Yasemin Çongar, Taraf columnist Markar Esayan, former Taraf columnist Amberin Zaman and journalist and academic Professor Mehmet Altan were tapped by MİT in 2008 and 2009.
Nişancı attended the funeral of Kaşif Kozinoğlu, an MİT official who suspiciously died in jail last year, Taraf reported. Kozinoğlu had been arrested as part of an investigation into the Odatv news portal in 2011.
Following Nişancı’s reassignment, new speculations circulated in the media that MİT’s İzmir regional branch head Özer Yılmaz would also be recalled to the capital, Taraf claimed. Yılmaz warned Bedrettin Dalan, a prominent Ergenekon suspect who stayed abroad since the arrest warrant was issued by an İstanbul court four years ago, that he should leave Turkey.
Meanwhile, as developments around MİT still unfold, the lawyer for retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ -- a former chief of General Staff who retired in 2010 and is now in jail for his link to a plot to topple the democratically elected government in 2009 -- denied the claims that Başbuğ opposed the assignment of Hakan Fidan as MİT undersecretary in 2010.
In a written statement released to the media on Friday, Başbuğ’s lawyer İlkay Sezer rejected the claims and stated that Başbuğ did not object to Fidan’s assignment [by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] in 2010 before his retirement from his post.