Court accepts indictment in propaganda websites case
Retired Gen. Hasan Iğsız (L), retired Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu (C) and Col. Dursun Çiçek (R)
An İstanbul court on Friday accepted an indictment in a case investigating allegations that some military generals ordered their subordinates to create anti-government websites and disseminate propaganda against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as well as some religious communities in Turkey.
The suspects on trial, being heard by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, include retired General Hasan Iğsız and active-duty generals Mehmet Eröz, Mustafa Bakıcı and Hıfzı Çubuklu. A total of 22 suspects are implicated in the indictment. The prosecutor requested an arrest warrant for the suspects immediately after the indictment was accepted by the court.
The suspects are being accused of “attempting to overthrow the government” and of “leading and being a member of an armed terror organization.” They are also accused of cataloging military officers according to their religious or political beliefs, possibly for future reference. Fourteen officers on active duty, four retired military officers and a civilian public servant are accused in the indictment.
The prosecutor of the case, Cihan Kansız, has also demanded that the case be merged with another trial about an alleged coup d'état plot its creators dubbed the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism. The court said it would decide later on the prosecutor's request to merge the two cases.
Col. Dursun Çiçek, whose signature appears both on an order concerning the illegal military websites and on the action plan, said recently that he had been ordered by higher-ranking officers to create the anti-government websites.
He testified voluntarily in the investigation, shortly after an official response from the General Staff to a query by the İstanbul 13th Criminal High Court on the websites. The General Staff said the websites were created for the purpose of creating awareness about national security and terrorism threats and blamed Col. Çiçek for having overstepped his orders. Çiçek responded saying that if his practices regarding the websites were in fact out of line, the General Staff could have taken administrative or disciplinary action against him.
Investigators say the websites are actually part of the action plan. However, Çiçek is not currently considered a suspect in the website trial.
The investigation was first launched by Prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, who formerly conducted the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine network of military officers and civilians accused of attempting to overthrow the government by force.
The investigation into propaganda websites began in 2010 based on evidence found in the home of Ret. Col. Hasan Ataman Yıldırım, a suspect both in the website case and in the second Ergenekon trial. Later, an anonymous tipster from inside the military sent an email to inform the public and the prosecutors that the General Staff had established 42 websites for the sole purpose of disseminating propaganda about the government and religious communities.
The prosecution was able to uncover the initial order for the General Staff website during the investigation. The order had the signatures of eight people, including those of Col. Cemal Gökçeoğlu and Çiçek. The document was dated April 2009 and originated in the office of the deputy chief of the General Staff Operations Department, who was Gen. Iğsız at the time.
The prosecutor says the websites were set up by the General Staff Information Support Unit to secure public support regarding a possible military coup and to mislead public opinion in line with the alleged coup plotters' aims. The indictment noted that the websites, which were hosted by TR.NET Middle East Software Services Inc., were created from Ministry of National Defense IP addresses. The content of the websites indicates that they were used as part of the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism allegedly drafted by Çiçek.
According to the prosecutor, two websites in particular -- www.irtica.org and www.irtica.net -- mention many of the plans and activities contained in the action plan and intensively focus on topics that are also frequently mentioned in the plan. The indictment also states that the purpose behind the websites was to win public support by disseminating fabricated information. The initial tipster had given the names of 11 officers, including Çiçek, and said they were in charge of the websites.