Former general testifies on KKTC assassination

Çevik Bir

June 29, 2009, Monday/ 17:13:00
A former general responded to prosecutors' questions about the suspicious death of a colonel in 1997 during an army drill in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) as part of the ongoing investigation into the alleged attempt of a clandestine group called Ergenekon to take over the government by force.

Retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is said to be the architect of the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, which resulted in the resignation of a coalition government led by an Islamist party at the time, testified on Thursday to Ergenekon prosecutors. Bir was questioned as a suspect, the prosecution said.

Bir was questioned about the death of Col. Vural Berkay, who was shot dead by a bullet, which flew by then-Land Forces Gen. Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu during the Toros-2 military exercise in the KKTC in 1997.

The prosecution was relying on information from an army intelligence officer who claimed that the real target was Land Forces Commander Gen. Kıvrıkoğlu, whose death would have possibly meant Gen. Bir's promotion as the force's commander, as Bir was the most likely candidate for this post according to army tradition. Bir denied any truth to the allegations during the investigation. This could have, some claimed, even eventually elevated Bir to the post of the chief of general staff.

The mystery surrounding the death of Berkay during the Toros-2 drill by a long-range rifle belonging to the Special Forces Command, which was overseen by Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Bir, has never been fully illuminated. Those claiming that the colonel's death was the result of an assassination attempt on Kıvrıkoğlu have also put forth that Gen. Engin Alan, who was the commander of the Special Forces Command at the time, was “Bir's man.” No comprehensive investigation was carried out into the colonel's death, until the case was taken up again with the investigation into Ergenekon launched in June 2007.

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