A secret witness using the codename “Deniz” in the case against the Ergenekon terrorist organization has disclosed his real identity as a former commander of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and made statements to the court about the shadowy relations between the PKK and Ergenekon.
The 255th hearing of the Ergenekon case began on Tuesday at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court. Secret witness Deniz declared that he wanted to disclose his identity before offering his testimony, and the judges approved his decision, allowing it to be revealed that Deniz is really Şemdin Sakık. Sakık was captured in northern Iraq 14 years ago and brought to Turkey, where he was sentenced to life in prison for terrorism-related crimes. He is currently in prison in Diyarbakır.
The Ergenekon network is accused of plotting to overthrow the government and masterminding a series of attacks and assassinations with an aim to foment chaos in the country. A number of retired and active-duty members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), journalists and businessmen have been arrested on charges of membership in the terrorist organization.
In statements made in court, Sakık talked about his joining the ranks of the PKK, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's relations with key Ergenekon suspects such as Workers' Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek and Yalçın Küçük as well as shadowy incidents in Turkey in the 1990s.
When asked by presiding judge Hasan Hüseyin Özese how he joined the PKK, Sakık said he became a sympathizer of the PKK in 1979, and felt forced to join its ranks following the 1980 military coup in order to be able to leave the country.
“I joined the PKK because I had to flee abroad," he said.
About meetings between Öcalan and Perinçek at PKK hideouts in the Bekaa Valley, Sakık revealed that Perinçek said he visited the area as a journalist and Öcalan tried to present himself as a nice leader during his meetings with Perinçek.
“Öcalan, who even saw shaking hands with people as a stain on his authority, kissed Perinçek on the cheek, met him face to face in a room for days, than created a book using material from these meetings and had it printed. [Perinçek] said he came as a goodwill ambassador. Although he [Öcalan] was known to be like a villager with his bushy moustache, voice and expressions until that day, he was presented to the public as a nice leader with flowers in his hands and a smile on his face thanks to his photos with Perinçek. There were efforts to present Öcalan as a leader and have the public accept this image,” said Sakık.
He said there was a boom in the number of people joining the PKK ranks after Perinçek's visit with Öcalan. Captured in 1999, PKK leader Öcalan is serving a life sentence at a prison in the Sea of Marmara near İstanbul.
Sakık also noted that Ergenekon suspect Küçük, was giving military training to PKK militants including him. “Küçük's relations with Öcalan were closer than Öcalan's relations with Perinçek. He [Küçük] was giving military training to us. We were wondering whether he is our second leader,” he said.
The suspicious death of Gen. Bahtiyar Aydın in Diyarbakır's Lice district in 1993 was also among the issues Sakık talked about. He said not the PKK, but a group within the state killed the general.
“I have no doubts that the pasha was killed by the state. As far as I know the soldier who killed the pasha was also killed. He was killed in a seemingly clash with the PKK in Lice. There is a deep state [in Turkey]. Some call it Ergenekon, some call it deep state. For me, there is no difference between the two,” he said.
A number of military officers were killed or died in suspicious circumstances in the 1990s, including Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Regional Commander Brig. Gen. Aydın. Aydın was shot dead with a Kanas rifle on Oct. 22, 1993 in Lice, but neither the rifle nor the assailant were ever found. Official records say Aydın died in a clash with the PKK.
The former PKK operative also talked about the background of the killing of 33 soldiers in a PKK attack in Bingöl in 1993 and claimed that although military commanders were aware of the PKK plans to carry out an attack, they sent the unarmed soldiers unguarded.
On May 24, 1993, a group of about 150 PKK terrorists blocked the Elazığ-Bingöl highway, stopping several buses that were transferring unarmed Turkish soldiers in civilian clothing. They dragged the soldiers from their vehicles before executing them. The attack broke a PKK cease-fire that had been declared in response to efforts by former President Turgut Özal to establish a dialogue with the PKK to solve the long-standing Kurdish problem. The military was later criticized for the fact that the soldiers had been unarmed and given no protection.
“The mastermind of this [Bingöl] incident is the PKK. Despite an order from the PKK leader to carry out attacks, those soldiers were sent without any protection,” he said, adding that the commanders were in the know that the PKK would stage an attack against these soldiers. “Why weren't any measures taken [to protect them]?”
Sakık said although everyone avoids talking about this, the biggest coup took place in Turkey in 1993. “This country underwent a change [in 1993]. The PKK was used as a weapon against Turks when necessary and against the dynamics within the state when necessary,” he added.
He noted that key figures such as then President Özal, former Maj. Cem Ersever and former gendarmerie general commander Eşref Bitlis were all eliminated. “The coup in 1993 was more horrific, bloody and deeper. It was bloodier, both in quality and number; individuals holding the most critical posts in state were killed,” he added.
In the statement he had sent to the prosecutor's office in 2008, Sakık also said PKK leader Öcalan left the country before 1980 because he was informed that there would be a coup d'état. Turkey witnessed one of the bloodiest coups in 1980 when the military overthrew the democratically-elected government.
According to Sakık's statements, which are included in the Ergenekon indictment, the PKK leader and PKK militants decided to leave the country as a precautionary measure in the face of the potential coup they were informed about.