Probe links former army officers to political murders

Probe links former army 
   officers to political murders

Retired Capt. Muzaffer Tekin who was recently sent to jail on charges of illegally harboring a stash of 27 hand grenades, is claimed to have taken orders from the same individual leading VKGB.

July 06, 2007, Friday/ 21:23:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Nineteen members of the Association for the Union of Patriotic Forces (VKGB), taken into custody on Monday after an extensive operation by the Anti-Organized Crime and Smuggling Department of the Ankara Police, have revealed curious links to other incidents during their interrogation, including the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink, slain by a teenager outside his newspaper in January of this year.

The suspects are currently on trial on charges of having founded a criminal network with involvement in at least 40 known crimes. In his testimony, VKGB Chairman Taner Ünal, one of the 19 under arrest, claimed that a group led by retired Capt. Muzaffer Tekin took their orders from the same individual. Tekin was recently sent to jail by an İstanbul court on charges of illegally harboring stash of 27 hand grenades and other explosives material in a house in the Ümraniye district of İstanbul. Months of monitoring phone conversations between the VKGB members revealed that the criminal network obtained its orders from an individual code-named "Number One."

However, the police were not able to uncover the identity of the mysterious leader. None of the suspects implicated would reveal the name, but VKGB chief Ünal said the "Number One" patriot was a retired security officer residing in İstanbul and that only five VKGB members who know his true identity.

Ünal also claimed that Tekin's organization was responsible for the Council of State shooting. In his testimony Ünal said: "They had a meeting in Ankara prior to the incident. Then the Council of State shooting occurred. They put a VKGB card inside the hit man's pocket, so they could blame it on us."

Two of the suspects arrested in Monday's operation, Halit Bozdağ and Salih Zeki, appear to have significant connections that might help lead the investigation to valuable information. Bozdağ is thought to be involved in guns trafficking along the Iranian-Syrian-Turkish route. Bozdağ has also bid in a number of military tenders to supply food, clothing and equipment. The police found that Bozdağ used a SIM card exclusively for cell phone conversations he had with Zeki, the VKGB deputy chairman.

The police investigation into the VKGB, including wiretapping cell phone lines belonging to the group members, was initiated by the public prosecutor. Police in Ankara have monitored every step the suspects took over the past 14 months right up until the arrests on Monday.

The suspects also have links with retired army officers, according to evidence and information that was referred to the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) military prosecutor for a separate investigation.

Connection to Dink murder

The record of a phone conversation between the VKGB Konya branch President Vehbi Ş. and a man referred to as Nejat M. suggests that the VKGB may even be behind the assassination of journalist Dink. An excerpt from a transcript of the phone conversation runs as follows:

Vedat Ş.: Hello

Nejat M: How's it going?

V: I'm good. I'm shopping, I am with Akın [the first name of a high-ranking gendarmerie officer, according to police]

N: Did you hear about this man they nailed down?

V: I did. It is the work of our guys.

N: They can't find out, can they?

V: No they can't. Don't worry.

N: May God bless them.


Operation Whirl

The results of the investigation into the 19 members of the VKGB taken into custody on Monday are likely to have heavy political consequences, as the group -- in addition to allegations of involvement in organized crime -- seems to have planned and staged a number of illegal acts during political demonstrations. Phone records of conversations, recorded during a 14-month police operation that led to Monday's arrests, reveal curious links between the suspects and former army members.

The suspects are being charged with "founding an organization with the intent of perpetrating a crime, leadership and membership in a crime organization, pillaging, tender fraud, falsification of documents, embezzlement, swindling, smuggling of historical items, illegal collation of donations, financing the crime organization and staging provocative acts aiming to undermine the independence of the state; abolishing the Republic of Turkey or trying to prevent it from functioning partially or completely."

In addition, the suspects are being accused of 40 crimes including "an attempt to swindle YTL 100,000 from the wife of a major who was martyred, shooting firearms at homes, businesses and automobiles, kidnapping, torturing, wounding with a firearm, provocative actions during martyrs' funerals at various times and threatening a newspaper correspondent in Diyarbakır."


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