Propaganda generals defy law, refuse to testify in website probe

Propaganda generals defy law, refuse to testify in website probe

The refusal of military members to testify as part of ongoing cases is irritating civil society. NGOs frequently take to the streets to ask the officers to bow to justice.

August 07, 2010, Saturday/ 17:07:00
Nineteen military officers, including Gen. Hasan Iğsız and Brig. Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu, were expected to testify to civilian prosecutors by yesterday as part of an ongoing investigation into a number of websites set up by the General Staff to support the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) alleged propaganda campaigns against civilian groups.

The officers, however, had not appeared by the time Today's Zaman went to print. Six of the officers are retired, while the remaining 13 are on active duty. They are accused of establishing 42 websites to back the TSK's psychological warfare against civilian groups it termed “reactionary,” “separatist,” “pro-ruling party” and “anti-TSK.” The TSK also monitored the activities of more than 400 Turkish and foreign language websites. Visitors of the websites were categorized by the armed forces on the basis of their political and religious views.

There were reports on Friday that some of the officers told the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office through their lawyers that they will not testify in the days to come because they are currently abroad. The reports, however, did not provide any further details about the officers. Among the active duty officers summoned to testify were Gen. Iğsız, Vice Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu, Lt. Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin, Brig. Gen. Çubuklu, Brig. Gen. Mustafa Bakıcı, Col. Orhan Güçlü, Col. Sedat Özüer, Col. Ziya Ülker Göktaş, Col. Dursun Çiçek, Col. Hulusi Gülbahar, Col. Cemal Gökçeoğlu and Capt. Murat Uslukılıç.

Observers believe the officers openly defied the law by refusing to comply with a prosecutor's order to testify as part of the website probe. Zekeriya Öz, the top prosecutor investigating the websites, summoned the 19 officers earlier this week. He was, however, criticized by opponents of the probe for working to spoil Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) plans to promote the officers to a higher rank.

Sedat Laçiner, chairman of the International Strategic Research Center (USAK), however, dismissed the criticism and said the judiciary is not obliged to follow the “schedule” of other state institutions when deciding to call suspects to testify. “Does a prosecutor wait for the exchange market to close to arrest a bank employee or for all important matches to end before detaining an athlete?” he asked, and added that observers should not question the timing of judicial actions.

Iğsız was hoping to be promoted to the post of Land Forces commander based on his past military experience. But the civilian members of YAŞ -- the president, the prime minister and the defense minister -- opposed the promotion during deliberations. They argued that a military officer cannot be promoted to a higher rank while standing accused of a crime. The existence of the TSK propaganda websites was revealed in an e-mail sent by a military officer to a number of newspapers and journalists last year. The officer, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed that the armed forces had the websites to back their psychological warfare against religious communities and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Iğsız is also believed to have given the order to Col. Çiçek to prepare an action plan to undermine the ruling party and the faith-based Gülen movement. The colonel was arrested -- for the third time -- in late April on coup charges. The prosecutors overseeing the website probe are now expected to obtain a court warrant for the apprehension of the officers by police. If such a warrant is obtained, police will be assigned to capture the officers where they are seen and take them to the prosecutor’s office to testify. Observers, however, are not sure whether such a warrant will really work based on past experience with Gen. Saldıray Berk. Civilian officers summoned the general twice to testify as part of an investigation into an alleged military plot against religious orders and communities in the eastern province of Erzincan. The general was the commander of the 3rd Army at the time. He was recently appointed head of the Education and Doctrine Command (EDOK) in Ankara.

Berk refused to comply with the summons and did not testify. He is still indicted in an indictment against the plot, which was previously merged with the case against Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal organization accused of working to overthrow the government. He is accused of putting into operation a military plot titled the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism. The plot, drafted by a colonel on active duty, was intended to undermine the power of the ruling AK Party, eventually leading to a military coup.

Request for removal of Balyoz judges rejected again

The İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court on Friday rejected an appeal by lawyers of suspects against whom an arrest warrant was issued in late July on coup charges. The lawyers had asked that the judges to hear the coup case be removed. This is the second time the appeal was rejected. The court made the decision anonymously and said it is the final decision related to the appeal. This means that the lawyers will not have another chance to appeal the decision. On July 24, the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court ordered the arrest of 102 suspects in the investigation into the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) Security Operation Plan, a subversive plan allegedly prepared by a clique inside the military. The İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court also asked the suspects to be immediately captured and made to appear before a court of law.

Partial list of TSK psychological warfare websites

Among the websites established by the TSK to conduct psychological warfare against civilian groups and individuals were: www.irtica.org, www.naksilik.com, www.geocities.com/fethullahgercegi, www.nursi.info, www.irtica.net, www.ozgurgenc.net, www.genclik.info, www.gencizbiz.net, www.aslar.org, www.askeriz.info, www.stratejik.info, www.tskasker.com, ww.turkatak.gen.tr, www.turkuz.info, www.turkler.info, www.turkses.com, www.turkeyturks.com, www.turksturkey.com, www.turkses.net, ww.turkses.org, www.pkkgercegi.net, www.pkkapo.com, www.apopkk.com, www.pkkgercegi.com, www.pkkgercegi.org, www.armenianreality.com, www.turkishgenocide.net, www.turkishmassacre.com, www.terorveguvenlik.net, www.terorizm.info, www.terorgercegi.com, www.terorveguvenlik.com, www.terorveguvenlik.org, www.greekmurderers.net, www.members.tripod.com/camerian_volunteer, www.cameria.org, www.yunanli.com, www.pontuslu.com, www.gurbetciler.info, www.turkuzbiz.org, www.hepimizturkuz.org and www.bizturkler.org.

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