18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

Families of slain Çukurca soldiers protest General Staff

3 August 2010, Tuesday /TODAY’S ZAMAN
The family members of seven soldiers who were killed as a result of a land mine explosion planted by the Turkish military last year in Çukurca in Hakkari province have protested the General Staff, which discussed the promotion of the suspected generals in this year's Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting.

The families put the blame for the June killings of nine soldiers by Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists in Şemdinli on Maj. Gen. Gürbüz Kaya, the commander of the Hakkari Division Command. Kaya came under fire when he said security cameras captured images of individuals approaching the Şemdinli border unit, but that at the time they believed they were either shepherds or smugglers. “Seeing the images, we started to fire weapons into the area but received no response.

We thought they were shepherds, villagers or smugglers,” he said.

The general had made similar controversial remarks last year after the death of seven soldiers in Çukurca due to a land mine explosion on May 27. “It is not important at all. We are fighting at the cost of our lives. A few simple mistakes can be made,” he was quoted as saying in a voice recording. Kaya’s remarks sparked outrage, with many asking military courts to take action against the general for negligence in the conduct of his duty as a military officer.

The cries of Raziye Demirci, mother of Deniz Demirci who was killed in Çukurca, were etched into the memory of all in Ankara. “They say that they thought the PKK members were shepherds. I am a mother. I raised my son enduring many hardships. I say to the Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ that it has been a year. If he cannot protect our soldiers, he should resign,” she said.

Several families of the Çukurca victims tried to protest in front of the General Staff in Ankara but were turned away. They read a statement near Parliament instead.

Shortly after the Çukurca mine blast, the Turkish military announced that the mine had been planted by the terrorist PKK. But further investigation later revealed that the mine belonged to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and had been planted on the order of Gen. Kaya. The tragic truth of the incident was revealed by Van prosecutors who launched an investigation into the mine explosion of May 27, 2009, after a telephone conversation between Brig. Gen. Zeki Es and Maj. Gen. Kaya, indicating that the mines were planted by people who were responsible for the soldiers’ security, came to light.

The prosecutors stated that the mines were planted on the orders of a Turkish commander and demanded that Es and Kaya, whose name is also mentioned in relation to the Sledgehammer coup plot, and the other people responsible be brought to justice for their role in the deaths of the seven soldiers. Because the civilian court lacks jurisdiction over the matter, the case was sent to the Military Prosecutor’s Office.

Families of the victims indicated that Gen. Kaya continued on active duty and that in the meantime the Gediktepe incident occurred. The Şemdinli Police Department’s counterterrorism branch informed the Şemdinli Gendarmerie Command about a “highly possible” terrorist attack three days before the June 19 terrorist attack that killed 11 soldiers in the Gediktepe region of Şemdinli, Hakkari. Gen. Kaya is at the helm of the Şemdinli Gendarmerie Command.

A group from the Jurists Association had a press statement in front of the Fenerbahçe Military Officer’s Club demanding that the Sledgehammer suspects who are waiting for their promotions in the military be handed over.

All the details of the attack point to serious weakness in intelligence. There has not yet been a satisfactory explanation for how such a large band of terrorists could approach an outpost unnoticed. On top of that, Kaya -- who said that they stopped firing thinking the terrorists were shepherds -- still remains at his post.

Some of the families of the Çukurca victims tried to have a protest in front of the General Staff headquarters in Ankara but they are not allowed to do that. Then they had a statement near Parliament. Hayrettin Açıkgöz, lawyer of the families, explained the process of investigation. “There has been no action against the ones whose faulty actions have been revealed in the incident,” he said.

Jurists ask for Sledgehammer suspects

Meanwhile, a group from the Jurists Association issued a statement in front of İstanbul’s Fenerbahçe Military Officer’s Club demanding that Sledgehammer suspects who are waiting for their promotions in the military be handed over. “This is the only way that the General Staff can show respect for the law and prevent corruption in the military,” said the group, which had about 20 members.

Lawyer Cahit Özkan who read the statement said that only two of the 102 Sledgehammer suspects have been captured. “Even though 10 days have passed since the decision to detain the suspects, only two of them were captured. This situation leads the public to think that the suspects are protected by the General Staff. Unfortunately, the General Staff places obstacles in front of the judiciary decisions as it has done so in the past. Many military men have been protected or they have escaped law in such cases as the Ergenekon, Şemdinli, Susurluk and others,” he said. Özkan added that the military officers who must be arrested should never be promoted in the YAŞ meeting in accordance with the Article 65 of the TSK Military Personnel Law.

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