The 13th hearing in the Ergenekon trial was held yesterday, with defendants continuing to give their statements. Ali Yiğit, one of the suspects who was previously released from jail pending the outcome of the trial, claimed that hand grenades found in the Ümraniye home -- the discovery that began the Ergenekon investigation -- belonged to Yıldırım. Yiğit said he was being constantly threatened in an attempt to pressure him to not testify that the explosives belonged to the retired army officer.
“Starting from the moment that I said that the hand grenades belonged to Yıldırım, I have been subjected to pressure to change my testimony. I was even warned that my one-and-a-half-year-old son would be killed if I didn’t change my testimony,” Yiğit said.
Yıldırım, however, denied possession of the explosives in his defense statement on Tuesday. “Neither my lawyer nor I saw those hand grenades [in the Ümraniye house]. The court that ruled that they be detonated did not see them, either,” he argued.
The ammunition found in Ümraniye was destroyed in accordance with a court order. He said the allegations against him were political and groundless. "I am proud to be here," he said. Yıldırım also denied any previous relationship with Yiğit.
Yiğit, however, denied Yıldırım's claims and said he first met him while Yıldırım and Mahmut Öztürk, another retired noncommissioned officer who was arrested last June as part of the Ergenekon investigation, were shopping at the grocery store he ran with his uncle, Mehmet Demirtaş.
"My father and I discovered a box of hand grenades in the attic of my uncle's house. When I asked about these explosives, my uncle said they belonged to Yıldırım. He warned me to guard them very carefully. I didn't see Yıldırım for two or three months after I discovered the hand grenades," he explained.
Yiğit also said he had been threatened multiple times by the lawyers representing Öztürk and Muzaffer Tekin, a retired captain currently under arrest. "Their lawyers told me several times that their clients were arrested because of this testimony. They warned me to change my testimony," he added.
The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court is hearing the case in a makeshift courtroom inside Silivri Prison near İstanbul. Among the 86 suspects are retired Gen. Veli Küçük and lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz, who is known for filing lawsuits against intellectuals over writings that question or criticize the state line on issues such as Armenian allegations of genocide. Forty-six of the suspects are in custody, and the rest have been released pending the outcome of the trial.
The existence of Ergenekon has long been suspected, but the current investigation into the group began only in 2007, when a house in İstanbul's Ümraniye district that was being used as an arms depot was discovered by police.
The Ergenekon indictment, made public in July, claims that the Ergenekon network is behind a series of political assassinations carried out over the past two decades for the ultimate purpose of triggering a military coup and taking over the government. The victims include secularist journalist Uğur Mumcu, long believed to have been assassinated by Islamic extremists in 1993; the head of a business conglomerate, Özdemir Sabancı, who was shot dead by militants of the extreme-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) in his high-security office in 1996; and secularist academic Necip Hablemitoğlu, who was also believed to have been killed by Islamic extremists in 2002.
Suspects face various charges, including "membership in an armed terrorist group," "attempting to destroy the government," "inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey" and other similar crimes.
JİTEM and Ergenekon trials may be merged
Meanwhile, another court case being heard in the Diyarbakır 3rd High Criminal Court may be merged with the Ergenekon case.
The Diyarbakır court is hearing a trial of 11 suspects accused of being members of a clandestine and illegal intelligence agency within the gendermarie known as JİTEM. In a hearing on Tuesday, co-plaintiff lawyers in the case demanded that the JİTEM trial be merged with the Ergenekon trial. The presiding judge is still reviewing the appeal.