The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into an alleged plot to assassinate Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I on the 560th anniversary of the conquest of İstanbul by the Ottomans, with police arresting one suspect and still seeking two others.
The probe was launched on an anonymous letter sent to the Kayseri Chief Public Prosecutor's Office that informed officials about the plot. According to the letter, Serdar A., who was later detained by police, and two other suspects, who have not yet been identified, were planning to assassinate Bartholomew on May 29, the anniversary of İstanbul's conquest. The letter said the suspect traveled to İstanbul between April 15 and 20 as part of their plan. He later went back to Kayseri to inform his two friends about the details of the plot to assassinate the patriarch.
Kayseri police learned about the plot after an anonymous person recently sent a note to a police department, asking authorities to be watchful against a possible attack against Bartholomew.
Police detained Serdar A. in the Melikgazi district of Kayseri as part of the investigation and are reportedly searching for the two other suspects. During a police interrogation, the suspect denied accusations that he was planning to kill the patriarch. He said he visited his relatives during his İstanbul visit and looked for a job there. “I do not know even where Bartholomew is living. I do not know what his title or job is. I just saw him in the media. I have no plans or intentions to kill him,” he reportedly told the police. Police officers later sent the suspect to the Kayseri Courthouse to be interrogated by prosecutors. Serdar A. was arrested and sent to jail pending trial after the prosecutor's questioning.
Police sources said the suspect was detained six times before for being involved in different crimes, including threatening and racketeering individuals.
This is the second time Turkish authorities have discovered a plot to assassinate Bartholomew.
A separate case filed regarding another plot to assassinate the İstanbul-based leader of the world's Orthodox Christians was earlier merged with the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon, a suspected criminal network charged with plotting to overthrow the Turkish government.
The plot to kill Bartholomew is thought to be part of the Cage Operation Action Plan, a subversive plot allegedly devised by military officers that sought to undermine the government through the assassination of non-Muslims and other acts of terror. The Cage plan was allegedly drawn up on the orders of Ergenekon. The Cage plan documents specifically refer to the killings of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, Catholic priest Father Andrea Santoro and three Christians in Malatya as an “operation.”
During an interview in 2009, Bartholomew said that “dark forces planned to use minorities to overthrow the government,” as revealed in the investigation into Ergenekon.
Based in İstanbul, the spiritual leader of the world's approximately 300 million Orthodox Christians was referring to the revelations of the Cage plan. “When the Cage plan was revealed, we thought the raid could be part of that plan,” he said. “At the time we thought that they were just trying to scare us.” Patriarch Bartholomew said he is grateful to the security forces who uncovered the “dark plans.” “It is a very satisfactory development that the police and prosecutors have been revealing those dark plans so those responsible can be captured and tried.”
Bartholomew's name is also on the Sledgehammer coup plot's “to be assassinated” list. The plot, which was allegedly prepared by a pro-junta group nested within the armed forces, was revealed by the Taraf daily in early 2010. Non-Muslims such as Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan and former Vatican representative George Marovic were also on the Sledgehammer death list.
Sledgehammer is a suspected coup plot allegedly devised in 2003 at a military gathering. According to the plan, the military was to systematically foment chaos in society through violent acts, among which were planned bomb attacks on the Fatih and Beyazıt mosques in İstanbul. The plot allegedly sought to undermine the government and lay the groundwork for a military takeover.