Feb. 28 operation reaches force commanders of coup era
Retired Gen. Teoman Koman was arrested on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention, popularly known as the postmodern coup. (PHOTOSUNDAY’S ZAMAN, Ensar Korkmaz)
The investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, popularly known as the postmodern coup, has reached the former commanding echelon of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), with six retired generals being arrested on Tuesday.
Detention warrants were issued for several former senior members of the TSK during the early hours of Monday as part of the deepening probe into the Feb. 28 coup. Turkish police immediately launched simultaneous operations in İstanbul, İzmir and Muğla and detained some of the suspects. Among those detained are retired Gen. Ahmet Çörekçi, who served as the air forces commander in the coup period; retired Gen. Teoman Koman; Lt. Gen. Vural Avar; former National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General İlhan Kılıç; former Land Forces commander retired Gen. Hikmet Köksal, former Land Forces logistics commander retired Lt. Gen. Kamuran Orhon; retired Lt. Gen. Metin Yavuz Yalçın; and retired Gen. Çetin Doğan.
On Tuesday, the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court finally ruled in favor of the arrest of Köksal, Kılıç, Çörekçi, Doğan, Avar and Yalçın on charges of “attempting to destroy the government.” Doğan and Yalçın, however, are already in jail in connection with the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup case. The Balyoz plan is believed to have been devised at a military gathering in 2003 and allegedly sought to undermine the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in order to lay the groundwork for a military takeover.
For many observers, the arrests came as a severe blow to the upper echelons of the clandestine West Study Group (BÇG), as those arrested are known to be top members of the group. The BÇG was formed within the TSK in order to contribute to the staging of the Feb. 28 coup. The group reportedly categorized politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats in accordance with their religious and ideological backgrounds before and after the coup. The actions of the BÇG are reputed to be at the center of the Feb. 28 investigation.
May 26, Saturday
Turkey ranked seventh in the 57th Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Love Me Back” by Can Bonomo. The 57th Eurovision Song Contest took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, where Sweden won the contest with the song “Euphoria,” performed by Loreen. Twenty-four-year-old Bonomo represented Turkey with “Love Me Back,” an English-language pop song about a lovesick sailor that included many elements of Turkish music, particularly in its chorus.
The terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack in central Turkey that killed one policeman. Media reports said the bombers had entered Turkey from Syria.
May 27, Sunday
The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) fourth ordinary congress was held in İstanbul’s new stadium, the Türk Telekom Arena, with the attendance of about 100,000 people. Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that criticism of the government over the killing of 34 civilians on the Turkish-Iraqi border near Uludere last December is part of an international smear campaign against his ruling AK Party government. Erdoğan said, “The outlawed PKK, the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP], the Republican People’s Party [CHP] and certain media outlets are involved in this international smear and abuse campaign.”
A statement from Prime Minister Erdoğan expressing his anti-abortion stance and opposition to Caesarean section surgeries sparked anger from women’s rights groups and several female deputies, initiating a debate on the government’s right to intervene in people’s ethical choices. Addressing a conference in İstanbul on May 25, Erdoğan said no one should have the right to approve abortions. “Either you kill a baby in the mother’s stomach or you kill a baby after birth. There is no difference,” the prime minister said. He also expressed his opposition to Caesarean sections, describing them as unnatural. Health Minister Recep Akdağ confirmed on Saturday plans to limit the number of Caesarean section births at Turkish hospitals.
May 28, Monday
A Turkish high criminal court accepted an indictment seeking life sentences for four top Israeli commanders, including Israel’s former chief of General Staff, who were involved in a 2010 Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left eight Turks and one Turkish American dead. The indictment seeks nine aggravated life sentences each for former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, former Israeli military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and former Air Force intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levy on charges of instigating premeditated murder.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz held talks with President Abdullah Gül and government and opposition leaders, focusing mainly on Turkish reforms and Turkey’s stalled bid to join the European Union, during his visit to Ankara. Speaking at the inauguration of an EU-Turkish parliamentary exchange and dialogue project, Schulz said it was no secret that Turkey’s accession process would be a long and difficult one.
Rear Adm. Cem Aziz Çakmak, who is currently among dozens of military officers jailed for their suspected involvement in a coup plot dubbed “Sledgehammer,” allegedly said in a recording posted online that “there will be revenge for the Sledgehammer” probe within two years and that this would hurt many, including children. “The picture will be upside down within two years. Look, I am saying this. You will say my pasha had said this. These guys [behind the probe] will flee. Many of them will flee the country. And revenge will be very different. Many people will be hurt. I mean, many will be hurt by this revenge,” a man believed to be Çakmak is heard saying in the recording posted on video sharing website dailymotion.com.
May 29, Tuesday
A joint venture between Turkish construction firm İÇTAŞ and Italian construction group Astaldi has won the tender for the North Marmara Highway project, which will involve the construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus Strait, Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yıldırım announced in Ankara.
A group of PKK terrorists kidnapped 10 people in the eastern province of Iğdır while the military and police detained a number of suspects across the country as part of operations against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that encompasses all groups related to the PKK. A group of PKK operatives set alight an automobile belonging to the Iğdır Special Provincial Administration in a region near Ağrı Mountain. The terrorist group later kidnapped an engineer, a civil servant and eight others. Security units have launched a rescue operation. Nineteen people were detained as part of operations against the KCK in the Doğubayazıt, Patnos, Tutak and Diyadin districts of the eastern province of Ağrı.
The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the actions of nine bureaucrats concerning a helicopter crash that killed former Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five others in 2009.
May 30, Wednesday
Turkish Airlines (THY) canceled 68 domestic and international flights in addition to the 179 canceled the previous day because of a slowdown strike, although its employees had returned to work. In a statement, the national airline said Wednesday’s cancelations were because of “operational reasons.” Tuesday’s strike began early in the morning following a call to do so from the Turkish Civil Aviation Union (Hava-İş). The union said it had asked members to protest an attempt in Parliament to remove the right of aviation workers’ to strike by slowing down operations at their workplaces. Not all THY ground staff participated in the strike.
Turkey expelled Syria’s charge d’affaires and other diplomats, joining an international campaign to isolate President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after a weekend massacre of more than a hundred people in a Syrian village.
Media Association Secretary-General Deniz Ergürel said journalists need laws that provide them the opportunity to work more freely and comfortably when voicing his association’s support for the government’s third judicial reform package. The third judicial reform package, among many other things, introduces several changes that will have an impact on the freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country.
A group of pro-military bureaucrats at the Ministry of Defense have begun work on a legal amendment that would ensure the release of jailed suspects in the Sledgehammer coup case, the Yeni Akit daily reported. According to the daily, these bureaucrats prepared a report for the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) in 2010 that suggested the military officers who are suspects in the Sledgehammer coup case should be promoted despite opposition from the government and the Justice Ministry. The government subsequently prevented the promotion of these officers following several days of tension with the military. Yeni Akit claimed these bureaucrats, who hold the title of colonel in the Turkish military, secretly took action following an order from the legal consultancy department of the General Staff to prepare a bill that would include elements that would allow for the release of the Sledgehammer suspects from jail.
May 31, Thursday
A report prepared by Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Committee on the racially motivated attacks by neo-Nazis in Germany that claimed the lives of 10 people, including eight Turks, has revealed that the media and politicians in Germany provoke xenophobia and racism. The National Socialist Underground (NSU), its name a reference to the Nazis or National Socialists, is suspected of killing eight people of Turkish origin and one Greek man between 2000 and 2006, as well as a policewoman in 2007.
A voice recording that was anonymously posted online on Thursday allegedly features the voice of a general who was recently arrested in the ongoing investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention using vulgar language when speaking about President Abdullah Gül. The voice of Gen. Tevfik Özkılıç is believed to be in the recording, the link to which was shared in a tweet by Ses TV, a news account that uses Twitter to share stories. The general was arrested last month for his suspected role in the 1997 unarmed military intervention that resulted in the resignation of the government in power at the time.
A plan by the Justice Ministry to revise an article of the Turkish criminal code that gives special authority to courts and prosecutors when investigating organized crime and coup plots has raised concern among Turkey’s jurists about the future of the ongoing Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup cases. Prime Minister Erdoğan said on Wednesday that the ministry is working on four judicial packages, including an amendment to Article 250 of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK). However, the prime minister did not elaborate on the packages. It is unclear what kind of amendment the ministry is planning to make to the article. If the amendment indeed aims to divest civilian prosecutors of their authority to investigate crimes committed against the constitutional order, then, jurists believe, such a move could impede the ongoing coup cases.
June 1, Friday
In his testimony to a civilian prosecutor in Diyarbakır, Şemdin Sakık, a former terrorist PKK commander, claimed that the killing of 33 unarmed off-duty Turkish soldiers in 1993 was the work of a pro-coup military junta nested in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Turkey was not alone in its efforts to block the European Union from participating in the NATO Chicago Summit held on May 20-21. According to an Ankara-based Western diplomat with close knowledge of the inner workings of the 28-member military alliance, at least half a dozen member states objected to the idea that the EU leaders should join the high-profile meeting in Chicago.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Turkish efforts in Somalia to assist in the reconstruction of the Horn of Africa nation and called on the international community to help Somalia build its own security apparatus and establish the rule of law. “I congratulate Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan for making Somalia a priority,” Ban said at a conference in İstanbul that was convened to discuss ways to support Somalia in its process of transition, calling for a new constitution and parliament and the election of a president by Aug. 20.
The Interior Ministry issued a decree that changes regulations regarding residence and work permits for foreigners, a move that experts say eases some recently introduced restrictions to obtaining residence permits.