Erzincan prosecutor Cihaner detained in Ergenekon probe

Erzincan prosecutor Cihaner detained in Ergenekon probe

Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner

February 16, 2010, Tuesday/ 18:15:00/ BURHAN TORUNLAR
Police detained Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner on Tuesday after a thorough search at his office and house as part of the ongoing probe into Ergenekon, a clandestine group charged with plotting to overthrow the government.

The warrant for the search came from Erzurum specially authorized prosecutor Osman Şanal. The search was coordinated by Şanal along with two other prosecutors. Police officers searched for evidence that could clarify ties between the Erzincan prosecutor and Ergenekon suspects.

Cihaner is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “falsifying documents” and “slander, insult and threats against individuals.” Police sources provided no immediate information to the press concerning the search.

Cihaner currently faces trial on charges of “abuse of power” and “falsification of documents” due to a probe he conducted into the İsmailağa religious community. Last year, Justice Ministry inspectors uncovered irregularities in the probe. An investigation was launched into Cihaner on the grounds that he failed to inform the justice minister about his probe into the İsmailağa religious community. Cihaner carried out the investigation illegally, in violation of established legal practices, and overstepped his authority.

If Cihaner is found guilty, he may face consecutive prison terms of up to 26 years. Cihaner delivered his defense statement before the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) in early January and said the İsmailağa probe was initiated toward the end of 2007.

“For almost two years, the correspondence and phone conversations of several officials and members of the religious community were monitored. Nothing was discovered during this period related to the use of violence, force or threat by the community. Evidence related to the community working as an armed organization was not found, either,” the prosecutor said.

The İsmailağa community is mentioned in an indictment into Ergenekon. According to the indictment, Erkan Kargın, one of the assailants in a deadly armed attack on the US Consulate General in İstanbul last year, was in close contact with a group within Ergenekon that was trying to infiltrate the religious community.

There are claims that Cihaner launched the probe into İsmailağa as part of a suspected military plot to undermine the power of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Titled the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism, the plot mentions a subversive plan by the armed forces to overthrow the government. According to the plan, ammunition and bombs would be planted in the houses where followers of some religious communities lived, and these weapons would later be found during a police search. Thus, these religious communities would be categorized as an “armed terrorist organization.”

The weapon-planting conspiracy had been put into operation in Erzincan; however, after the exposure of the plot, unidentified parties dumped munitions into a reservoir in the city. An investigation into the weapons led to the arrests of three National Intelligence Organization (MİT) officials, two military officers and one noncommissioned officer. The conspiracy is believed to have been prepared by 3rd Army Commander Gen. Saldıray Berk, Erzincan prosecutor Cihaner and the gendarmerie regiment commander in Erzincan.

Erzurum Chief Public Prosecutor Şanal on Monday subpoenaed Gen. Berk for testimony as part of the conspiracy probe.

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