Turkish police searched the homes and offices of 11 people on Thursday and detained 10 of them as part of an investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine gang accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
The detainees are mostly journalists. One of the suspects could not be detained since he is currently abroad. Police raided the homes of suspects in Ankara and İstanbul, copied the hard disks of their computers and seized notes or books that could serve as evidence in the Ergenekon investigation. The İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court issued a detention warrant for all of the 11 suspects.
The raid followed an earlier police search at the offices of the neonationalist odatv.com news portal in İstanbul as a result of which three journalists were arrested last month. The raid was ordered by an İstanbul court on query from Zekeriya Öz, the chief prosecutor in the investigation into Ergenekon. Dozens of Ergenekon suspects, including businessmen, journalists and academics, are currently in prison on terror and coup charges.
Among the suspects whose houses and offices were searched by police yesterday were Professor Yalçın Küçük, Odatv reporter İklim Kaleli Bayraktar, Odatv Ankara representative Mümtaz İdil, Odatv news coordinator Doğan Yurdakul, journalists Müyesser Yıldız, Sait Çakır, Nedim Şener, Ahmet Şık, Aydın Bıyıklı, Coşkun Musluk and former National Intelligence Organization (MİT) member Kaşif Kozinoğlu. Kozinoğlu was reported to be abroad at the time of the search. Of these individuals, Şık, Yurdakul, İdil, Musluk, Şener, Bayraktar, Bıyıklı, Yıldız, Çakır and Küçük were taken into custody.
The suspects are accused of membership in the Ergenekon terrorist organization. In mid-February, İstanbul police carried out a search at the offices of Odatv due to rumors that confidential Ergenekon-related documents were being kept there. The news portal is better known for its pro-Ergenekon publications. Four administrators of the portal, including its owner Soner Yalçın, were detained as a result of the search.
Three of them were later arrested on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. The arrestees are also accused of “seizing and publishing confidential state documents” and “inciting hatred and enmity in society.” They are currently incarcerated in Metris Prison in İstanbul. According to news reports, a draft book of journalist Şık was seized from the computer of Odatv’s Yalçın. A notice reportedly written down by Yalçın read: “This book should absolutely be published before the [June parliamentary] elections. It should be more striking than Simons.” By Simons, Yalçın was referring to jailed Police Chief Hanefi Avcı’s “Haliç’te Yaşayan Simonlar” (Simons in the Golden Horn.) In the book, Avcı argues that the Ergenekon trial is a conspiracy run by the government to silence its critics but at the same time acknowledges he has no proof to back up these allegations. There were claims that Şık planned to name his book “İmamın Ordusu” (The Army of the Imam).
Ankara police also searched the house of Küçük’s ex-wife, Temren Küçük. A public prosecutor and Ankara Bar Association Chairman Metin Feyzioğlu, who is known for his explicit support for Ergenekon defendants, accompanied police officers as they searched the house. Speaking to reporters before the search, Feyzioğlu said he was strongly opposed to the police raid. He called on state authorities to “immediately stop the searches” at the addresses of the suspects. “They are carrying out searches although they have no sound evidence at hand,” he said.
Commenting on the police raid, Interior Minister Beşir Atalay said police officers were acting on the orders of judicial bodies. “This is a decision by the judiciary. Judicial bodies ask police [to carry out searches.] On such occasions, the police comply with the orders coming from the judiciary,” he noted. İstanbul Bar Association Head Ümit Kocasakal, known for his earlier remarks in solidarity with Ergenekon suspects, also criticized the searches in televised remarks yesterday and argued that “a society of fear is being created in Turkey.” There were earlier claims that Kocasakal has links to the People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO), an illegal and armed Marxist terrorist organization. He previously criticized the arrest of many individuals on charges of membership in Ergenekon.
Who is who?
Şık, a journalism professor at Bilgi University in İstanbul, is already on trial for a book he co-authored about the Ergenekon case. After the Odatv raid, he had predicted a new police investigation against him, according to Turkish news sources. “I understand a copy of the book I am writing has seriously disturbed some people. That’s why they are trying to link me with the ‘Ergenekon network,’ via Oda TV,” he was quoted as saying by a news portal. Professor Küçük was arrested in 2009, albeit for a brief period of time, on charges of membership in the Ergenekon terrorist organization. He is accused in the third Ergenekon indictment of being one of the chief members in the administration of the organization. In addition, there were earlier claims that the professor had close links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He is also accused of coordinating the relationship between Ergenekon and the PKK. Küçük is also the pioneer of a project to make some prime suspects in the Ergenekon case deputies so that they could evade trial for four years.
Odatv’s Kaleli gained prominence last month when the details of a phone conversation between Kaleli and Yalçın, the owner of Odatv, were made public. In the conversation, Kaleli complains that Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Muharrem İnce paid frequent visits to her home while intoxicated and late at night. “He comes to my house drunk at 10 p.m. He tries to give me secrets about [Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu,” she was heard saying in the conversation. Kılıçdaroğlu is the chairman of the CHP.
Journalist Şener is accused of working to clear gendarmerie officers of charges in one of his books. The book is titled “Dink Cinayeti ve İstihbarat Yalanları” (Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies). Dink was shot dead by an ultranationalist teenager in broad daylight in front of the office of the bilingual Agos daily, of which he was the editor-in-chief. Two gendarmes are currently standing trial for having ignored warnings about the plot to kill Dink. Yesterday, Şener’s neighbors hung red-and-white Turkish flags from their windows of their apartment building to protest the police raid.
MİT’s Kozinoğlu allegedly had close relations with Alaattin Çakıcı, arguably the most infamous mafia boss in Turkey. He was caught in several phone conversations with Çakıcı in the past when he was trying to help the mafia boss flee Turkey. In an earlier testimony to prosecutors, Kozinoğlu said the MİT learned about a planned assassination to a high-level politician in Turkey, and that he was trying to prevent the assassination by getting in close contact with Çakıcı. It was later suggested that the politician in question was former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz.
Yurdakul, on the other hand, has worked for long years for various newspapers and magazines, such as Yenigün, Ulus, Vatan, Aydınlık, Evrensel, Siyah-Beyaz, Günaydın, Kim, Yön and Devrim. Some of the newspapers and magazines are known as “ultranationalist.”
CHP deputies, İP members react to searches
Some deputies of the CHP and Workers’ Party (İP) members paid visits to the addresses where police officers were carrying out searches and criticized the searches as “illegal.”
CHP Ankara deputy Yılmaz Ateş visited the house of Müyesser Yıldız in the early morning hours yesterday. He told reporters that the search at Yıldız’s house came after he launched a lawsuit against Ergenekon prosecutor Öz. “The first hearing was held on March 1. And only two days later, the house of Yıldız is being searched. The freedom of no one is under guarantee in Turkey,” he complained. CHP parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Akif Hamzaçebi also reacted to the searches, and said the police raid targeting the journalists was aimed at “silencing” the media in Turkey. “The detention of journalists is aimed at silencing the media at a time when Turkey is headed for the elections. They are trying to silence the media. The freedom of press will retract if such raids and detentions continue,” he noted.
İP Deputy Chairman Erkan Önsel and a group of members of the party went to the house of Küçük in show of solidarity for the professor. When the group was not allowed by police to enter the house, Önsel yelled, “Yalçın Küçük, we are on your side!” The group protested the search for a while, and later dispersed without any major incident. The İP chairman, Doğu Perinçek, was arrested as part of the Ergenekon investigation in 2009. He is still in prison.
US Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone, whose earlier remarks on freedom of the press in Turkey sparked much controversy, was also asked about the searches yesterday. He said the US supports freedom of the press all over the world, without going into detail.