Prosecutors still working on evidence against ex-military chiefs

Three retired high-ranking military officers released on Saturday after testifying to civilian prosecutors may still face trial over charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

December 08, 2009, Tuesday/ 17:02:00
İstanbul Deputy Chief Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı announced on Monday that prosecutors conducting an investigation into Ergenekon -- a clandestine network charged with plotting to overthrow the government -- were still working on evidence and charges against three ex-military chiefs.

“Prosecutors are still working on evidence and charges against the ex-military chiefs. ... There is no plan at the moment to forward their file to a military prosecutor’s office,” Çolakkadı told reporters.

The prosecutor was referring to three retired high-ranking officers who were released on Saturday after testifying to civilian prosecutors over alleged military plots to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Former Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman, former Air Forces Commander Gen. İbrahim Fırtına and former Naval Forces Adm. Özden Örnek, all of whom retired in 2004, were interrogated by prosecutors conducting an investigation into Ergenekon -- a clandestine network charged with plotting to overthrow the government -- over Örnek’s journal detailing plans to stage a coup d’état against the AK Party government.

The ex-military chiefs were released after 10 hours of questioning by prosecutors over what they knew about coup plans nicknamed Moonlight, Blonde Girl and the Glove, all mentioned in a journal kept by Örnek.

In April 2007, weekly newsmagazine Nokta published excerpts from a journal it said belonged to Örnek, which contained details of coup attempts dating back to 2004. An investigation was launched following the allegation -- not into Örnek and his coup plans but into Nokta Editor-in-Chief Alper Görmüş. The weekly newsmagazine was shut down several weeks after a police raid on their office. However, the journal was included in the second indictment in the Ergenekon trial in 2009 after a technical examination of the excerpts published by Nokta confirmed that they were authentic.

Observers believe Ergenekon prosecutors may prepare an indictment against Yalman, Fırtına and Örnek, based on their testimonies on the notorious coup plans. This was the case in the trial of the wife of Constitutional Court Vice President Osman Paksüt, Ferda Paksüt, and the former head of the Higher Education Board (YÖK), Professor Kemal Gürüz. The two were released after being questioned by Ergenekon prosecutors, but their names are mentioned in the Ergenekon indictment.

The ex-military chiefs may also face charges other than plotting coups, as inferred from Çolakkadı’s remarks. According to the chief prosecutor, Yalman, Fırtına and Örnek faced questions on a range of subjects other than the coup diaries. It was not clear whether prosecutors questioned them on a journal kept by Cumhuriyet daily Ankara Representative Mustafa Balbay, who is also a jailed defendant in the Ergenekon trial.

According to Turkish dailies, among the questions directed to the ex-military chiefs were “Did you have knowledge about the Moonlight, Blonde Girl, Sea Sparkle and Glove coup plans?” “Did you gather at any time to agree on a coup?” “Were you implicated in the preparation of those plans?” “Were you aware of the Republican Work Group [ÇCG] formed within the gendarmerie [to influence the political and social atmosphere in Turkey]?” “Did you participate in a General Staff meeting when the chief of General Staff was asked to release a memorandum against the government?” “Did you have a role in forcing former Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök to resign?” “Did you call on university rectors to stage demonstrations?” Yalman, Fırtına and Örnek denied all allegations.

Bilal Çalışır, head of the Boğaziçi Lawyers Association, said Ergenekon prosecutors may file charges against the ex-military chiefs based on the evidence at hand. “A confidential investigation is going on. We do not know what evidence prosecutors have and why the ex-military chiefs were released. We may be surprised in time,” he noted.

Mete Göktürk, a former chief prosecutor of the now-dissolved State Security Court (DGM), remarked that Yalman, Fırtına and Örnek may be re-interrogated if new evidence is found related to the investigation. “It seems to me that charges will be brought against them. If the case is merged with Ergenekon, they will be tried in İstanbul [by a civilian court], but if their dossier is sent to the General Staff because the crime was committed at its headquarters, the case will most probably be tried in Ankara [by a military court],” the prosecutor stated.

Prosecutor denies report on court summons for Cage testimony

Murat Yönder, one of the prosecutors conducting the Ergenekon investigation, yesterday denied a report that court summons were sent to three admirals whose names have been frequently mentioned in a Naval Forces Command plot to overthrow the AK Party, requiring them to testify to civilian prosecutors as part of an ongoing investigation.

Yeni Şafak reported that Adm. Kadir Sağdıç, Adm. Fatih Ilgar and retired Adm. Feyyaz Öğütçü would be interrogated about the plan this week as suspects. Adm. Öğütçü’s name appears in Operation Cage documents as “the president.” Öğütçü was forced to retire at this August’s Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), reportedly due to his suspected ties to Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal organization accused of plotting against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

However, Yönder told press members that no court summons had been sent to the admirals.

Öğütçü was one of the founders of the Karargah houses, which the Ergenekon investigation has revealed were meeting spots for generals plotting coups d’état, housed hit men and served as storage for munitions. Öğütçü was also implicated in the placement of TNT and other explosives at the bottom of a submarine at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum. The explosives were found by police in May after a document was discovered on a computer owned by a suspect previously detained as part of the Ergenekon probe. The explosives were to be detonated while a group of students visited the museum.

Several members of the military were arrested last month on the grounds that they had contributed to the preparation of the Cage plan.

The Cage action plan was signed by Lt. Col. Ercan Kireçtepe and was to be put into operation by a team of 41 members of the Naval Forces Command. The plan was detailed on a CD seized from the office of retired Maj. Levent Bektaş, who was arrested in April for suspected links to a large cache of munitions unearthed during excavations on land owned by the İstek Foundation in İstanbul’s Poyrazköy district. That discovery came as part of the investigation into Ergenekon.

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