Prosecutors: Some trying to clip wings of justice

May 25, 2009, Monday/ 16:43:00
Mehmet Ali Pekgüzel, one of the prosecutors carrying on the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon, a terrorist organization charged with creating chaos in an attempt to undermine Turkey's stability and eventually stage a coup to overthrow the government, has presented a response on behalf of his colleagues to allegations voiced by Ergenekon suspects, saying some groups are trying to hinder the judicial process. The prosecutors' joint statement, which was read by Pekgüzel after Friday's hearing in the Ergenekon trial, has received a great deal of support from experts.

Pekgüzel said the indictments they had prepared targeted a terrorist organization and its members, not the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), adding that defendants are attempting to humiliate the judiciary with allegations that depict the case as an attack on the TSK. He pointed out that there may be people in the TSK who have made mistakes and if they can be brought to justice, this will not debilitate the TSK but instead make it more powerful.

The trial against Ergenekon started on Oct. 20, 2008, but the terrorist organization first made headlines when police seized 27 hand grenades and 18 detonators in a raid on a shanty house linked to retired noncommissioned officer Oktay Yıldırım in İstanbul's Ümraniye district in June 2007.

In the subsequent police raids on the houses, offices and depots of Ergenekon suspects, a huge amount of firearms and ammunition have been found. More than 100 people, including retired generals, retired and active duty officers of various ranks, businessmen, academics and journalists have been arrested so far as part of the investigation. The joint statement of the prosecutors read by Pekgüzel on Friday is the first of its kind since the beginning of the investigation. Last Friday marked the 89th hearing of the famous trial.

The defendants and their lawyers have pursued a strategy of targeting members of the judiciary -- both the judge and the prosecutors of the case -- in order to make the international community believe the case is a non-juridical act, Pekgüzel stated, noting that they label the prosecutors as “taking orders” and the judge as “the judge of the green coup,” accusing him of harboring a secret religious agenda. The defendants who have made these allegations include Kemal Kerinçsiz, Ergün Poyraz, Hayrettin Ertekin, Doğu Perinçek, Bekir Öztürk and Emin Gürses. The pressure from the suspects and their lawyers has intensified since the Council of State and Cumhuriyet daily attack cases were merged with the Ergenekon case due to the strong links seen between the three cases. Now all three will be heard by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court.

An armed attack on the Council of State in 2006 left a senior judge dead and seriously injured four others while a hand grenade attack on the Cumhuriyet daily in early May 2006 did not result in any deaths. It was initially speculated that both attacks were carried out by religious people to protest secularism, but strong links between the Ergenekon terrorist organization and the tragic attacks were later discovered.

Pekgüzel said this was not the first time they faced such accusations. “We believe that whoever was involved in this case would have faced the same allegations. Public prosecutors cannot choose cases as lawyers can do. We are appointed to particular cases according to the division of labor. No public prosecutor can withdraw from a case given to them. It is not possible for us to have particular antipathy against any defendant, and this is not the first time we are facing such accusations. The prosecution shall not be affected by them, but we will file a criminal complaint about this aspersion and defamation,” he stated.

Kerinçsiz and some other defendants argued that the prosecutors would go down in history as having called the TSK and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, terrorists. “As is possible with any institution, there may be people in the TSK who have been involved in crimes. Our efforts to bring them to justice will not defame the TSK but strengthen it. It is said clearly in Ergenekon documents that it is operating within the TSK. But we are doing our best not to associate it [the TSK] with Ergenekon. About those people [active duty military officers standing trial in the Ergenekon case], the Supreme Military Council is pursuing an investigation. I ask now: Is protecting the TSK a duty left to those who have abused it?” Pekgüzel said, rebuking the defendants.

The Ergenekon prosecutors' joint statement is backed by experts. Retired chief prosecutor Reşat Petek said that in terrorist organization cases, those being tried always have some tactics to defame and coerce the prosecution but that it is somewhat different with Ergenekon. “They are hiding themselves behind Atatürkism, Kemalism and modernism to cover their secret agendas. They are trying to create an image as if the prosecution is against the TSK and the state at large. It is pretty normal for them to attack the prosecutors who have uncovered their true faces. The prosecutors' statement was very timely because those who have not read the indictment and hardly know the details about the case could have assumed that the defendants were telling the truth,” Petek said, in support of the prosecutors.

Former Diyarbakır Bar Association head Sezgin Tanrıkulu shared Petek's views on the issue, adding that this judicial process needed to be backed by lawyers' organizations and society as a whole. “These are really powerful people who are now charged with plotting a coup d'état. Their audacious words and behavior are a message not only to those carrying on this investigation and the trial but for others who will do the same in the future, too,” he said.

However, the prosecutors and the judge are not the only ones targeted by the defendants. The lawyers of the victims who are taking part in the trial as co-plaintiff attorneys are also highly concerned with the way the defendants have behaved during the trial. “Aspersion-like and threat-like discourse cannot be accepted. They did this to us, too. This is a tactic to deter us,” said Özkan Yücel, who represents Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who claims to be aggrieved by the terrorist gang. 

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