Police detain retired colonel linked to Malatya murders

Police detain retired colonel linked to Malatya murders

March 13, 2009, Friday/ 17:22:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
A retired colonel being sought on an arrest warrant issued as part of an investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine terrorist organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government, was detained in Ankara yesterday by squads from the Ankara Police Department.

Investigators believe the retired colonel, identified as Mehmet Ülger, might solidify the suspected link between Ergenekon and the murders of three Christians at a publishing house in Malatya in 2007. It has been reported that Ülger previously served as the Malatya Provincial Gendarmerie Battalion commander. He was lined up to testify in court as a witness in the murder of three Christians in Malatya, sources said. Zekeriya Öz, the chief prosecutor in the Ergenekon investigation, is planning to investigate suspected links between the Malatya murders and Ergenekon. Reports said Ülger's name was mentioned in a letter written by an informant to the court conducting the Malatya investigation.

Sources said the police had been monitoring the retired colonel's phone conversations as part of the Ergenekon investigation for some time. Ülger was detained as a result of potentially incriminating statements he made during phone conversations with several Ergenekon suspects and because of information provided by Dicle University instructor Abdurrahim Doğru, who was detained earlier in the investigation on charges of financing Ergenekon. Ülger, who was detained yesterday in the capital, was transferred to İstanbul for interrogation by police and will later testify to a court.

Meanwhile, a noncommissioned officer on active duty at the Intelligence Department of the Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Battalion Command was detained yesterday. The noncommissioned officer, a special sergeant identified as Mehmet Çolak, was also transferred to İstanbul yesterday. Çolak frequently met with Ruhi Abat, a theology professor who allegedly incited the Malatya murders.

The co-plaintiff lawyers in the Malatya case requested in January that Ergün Poyraz, one of the suspects arrested in 2007 as part of the investigation into Ergenekon, testify in court as a witness in the Malatya murder case.

Ergenekon-Malatya link

Recent evidence collected in the Ergenekon investigation has consistently suggested that the brutal Malatya killings might have been organized by Ergenekon, which is suspected of a large number of murders and bombings aimed at creating chaos in the country to serve the organization's ultimate purpose of overthrowing the government. Lawyers representing the families of the victims have been calling for a deeper investigation into Ergenekon ties since the start of the investigation.

During a hearing of the Malatya case held in February at the Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court, the presiding judge announced that the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which is trying the Ergenekon case, had sent his court a copy of the Ergenekon indictment in response to the Malatya court's query into the possibility of merging the two cases. The judge also said the Ergenekon indictment had as of that day been merged with the Christian murders case.

Ergenekon is suspected not only in the Malatya murder case, but also in various other attacks and assassinations, including the killing of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in early 2007.

On April 18, 2007, Necati Aydın (35), Uğur Yüksel and German national Tilmann Ekkehart Geske (46) were tied to their chairs, tortured and stabbed at the Zirve publishing house in the eastern Anatolian city of Malatya before their throats were slit. The publishing house they worked for published Bibles and Christian literature. Suspects S.G., C.Ö., H.T. and A.Y., whose full names were not disclosed because of their ages, were caught at the crime scene and immediately taken into custody. The main suspect, Emre Günaydın, jumped from a third-story window while attempting to escape from police and was taken into custody after being hospitalized.

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