A secret witness in a case into a military plan to undermine the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the faith-based Gülen movement told an İstanbul court on Wednesday that nine members of the military, including a lieutenant colonel, were sent to an area where outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists had laid an ambush despite intelligence information not to go there.
The officers were killed in August of 2008 in the eastern province of Erzincan's Kemah district when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) planted by PKK terrorists. According to the secret witness, identified by the codename Efe, the officers were “intentionally sent to their death.” “The officers were sent to their death to foment chaos in society. [The late] Lt. Col. Miktad [Şamdancı] was a conservative man. Many people did not like him because of his conservative character. He was sent to the [Kemah] area despite intelligence information not to do that,” the witness told the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which is hearing the case into the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism.
The plan concerns a military plot to destroy the image of the AK Party and the Gülen movement in the eyes of the public, to play down the Ergenekon investigation and to gather support for members of the military as part of the investigation into Ergenekon.
According to Efe, former Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) officials in the province are responsible for the deaths of the lieutenant colonel and eight other officers. “Intelligence information was conveyed to them [Cihaner and MİT officials] that PKK terrorists were planning to stage an act of terror in the area. But Şamdancı and his eight men [military officers] were sent to Kemah to be killed,” he stated.
The secret witness also claimed that a military operation was not launched in the area even though a group of PKK terrorists held 16 villagers in Erzincan captive only a few days before the killings of the eight military officers in Kemah. “PKK terrorists held 16 villagers captive, and sent a notice [to the Erzincan Gendarmerie Command] to go to save the villagers. But the gendarmerie commander did not launch an operation [to capture the terrorists]. … What I am saying here is the concrete truth. I am not adding any comment or personal thoughts,” Efe added. Efe said he is a public prosecutor by profession.
Additionally, Efe provided details about a plan by Cihaner and some military higher-ups to plant weapons at the addresses of followers of religious communities in Erzincan as part of the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism. According to the plan, the weapons would be discovered during the course of an investigation, and as a result, those communities would be presented to the public as “terrorist organizations.” Police raids on those addresses would result in the arrests of hundreds of the communities' followers.
Cihaner was arrested last year on charges of membership in Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of working to overthrow the government. He was also accused of efforts to put into operation the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism in Erzincan. However, he was released from prison after a brief period of time under arrest.
Jurists demand probe into Özbek
The secret witness in addition told the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court that he was sent to Erzincan by Kadir Özbek, the former head of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), to assist Cihaner in his illegal acts. “You are the apple of our eye. We trust you, and have decided to send you there. You have to act with your brother İlhan [Cihaner],” Özbek reportedly told the secret witness.
Efe's remarks have spurred prominent jurists into action, leading some to call on the judiciary to launch a probe. According to retired military judge Yusuf Çağlayan, legal action should be taken against Özbek and Cihaner if what the secret witness has told the İstanbul court reflects the truth. “The court will examine the witness's remarks to check if they reflect the truth. If they happen to be the truth, legal action should be taken against Özbek and Cihaner,” he said.
Sinan Kılıçkaya, president of the Jurists Union, said an investigation should be launched into the people who are mentioned in Efe's testimony. “The people should be added to the case. If there is a gang, then it means those people are members of that gang. A man of law cannot make such recommendations or pressure a prosecutor [referring to Efe when he was sent to Erzincan]. He may make those remarks only if he is member of a gang or organization. If he said those words, then he has a connection to that gang or organization,” Kılıçkaya added.
In a separate development, the former head of the Alperen Ocakları -- affiliated with the Grand Unity Party (BBP) -- in eastern Turkey, Halim Albayrak, stated that "dark forces" tried to use nationalist figures in some eastern provinces in 2007 to instigate clashes between Turks and Kurds there, probably as part of the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism. He said some men came to him a few days after a terrorist attack in 2007 in Erzincan and told him: "We have brought you the greetings of Gen. Saldıray Berk. We will lend you all support if you hold a rally before the [general] elections." Berk is currently a suspect in the case against the action plan. The rally would most probably have been aimed to push the AK Party government into a corner before the 2007 elections, according to Albayrak. "But we acted with common sense, and turned down their request," he added.