Administrative probes serve to gloss over suspicious cases

August 25, 2010, Wednesday/ 16:41:00
Administrative investigations launched by the General Staff into security flaws in a number of bloody terrorist attacks resulting in the deaths of dozens have failed to bring any conclusion, urging security experts to question whether these probes serve to gloss over the military's failures.

Administrative investigations have been launched into claims that the military had failed to prevent terrorist attacks such as those in Dağlıca, Aktütün, Reşadiye and İskenderun despite prior intelligence. However, no one is aware of the fate of these probes because the General Staff has not provided any explanation as to the investigation process thus far. It is also unknown whether those suspected of involvement in these failures were punished or not.

The General Staff most recently announced that an administrative investigation has been launched into allegations that the military failed to act against the terrorists on the night of an attack on July 19 at the Hantepe outpost in Çukurca despite intelligence provided by Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). However, the question marks surrounding past investigations raise suspicions about the fate of the probe into the Hantepe allegations. Experts think the military’s administrative probes serve as a means to cover up critical cases.

Retired military judge Faik Tarımcıoğlu is one of them. Noting that such investigations should be carried out transparently in order to not harm the trust in the judiciary, he says the General Staff tried to cover up some past cases. “No one should look for bad intention and be suspicious of those who think that some past cases were covered up under the guise of administrative probes. Carrying out investigations with the notion of ‘do not let it out of this room’ is against the law,” he says.

In fact, the public witnessed cover-ups for probes carried out by the Military Prosecutor’s Office in the recent past, including in the infamous heron treason scandal. According to a report that appeared in the Bugün daily last month, an Air Force officer in wire communications asked a high-ranking Air Force pilot to shoot down Herons or change their flight plans because they were causing too much damage to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists. The conversation took place on Oct. 10, 2007. An officer calling a mobile phone from a landline in Ankara said the Herons were very good at locating targets and that they had caused a great deal of damage to his own men, who were PKK militants. He said he would like the Herons to be downed or at least be given new coordinates. The commander on the other at the end of the line said, “We’ll take care of that.”

The scandal broke when the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) detected the conversation and informed the Land Forces Command. The Land Forces commander at the time, Gen. İlker Başbuğ, ordered an investigation into the two officers on Oct. 28, 2007. Neither MİT nor the General Staff has denied the story.

Naci Dalkılıç, a military prosecutor, was able to identify the two Air Force officers with the help of the gendarmerie and the police department. The man who asked to down Herons was identified as Air Force pilot Sr. Lt. Fırat Ç., while the person who promised to take care of the problem was identified as Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Selami Selçuk Ç.

The two officers who had the conversation are also suspects in an investigation into alleged command house centers within the military organized by the Workers’ Party (İP) and other members of Ergenekon, a clandestine network charged with attempting to overthrow the government. The prosecution attempted to merge these investigations on Sept. 9, 2008. The case was sent to Air Force judge Col. Ahmet Zeki Üçok, who was conducting the İP/command houses investigation at the time. Üçok is currently the main defendant in the trial of alleged members of a gang that is accused of processing fake medical reports to exempt its clients from military service. He was apprehended last month. After the case was referred to Üçok, the investigation was shelved.

Üçok notified the Land Forces Command on Sept. 23, 2008, that he had taken over the Heron officer’s file, but instead of merging it with the command houses investigation, he kept it as a separate investigation. He let the file sit until July 2009 and spoke with one of the suspects. The suspect was reportedly kept in custody for a night but released without even being referred to a court. There are also claims that Lt. Col. Selami Selçuk Ç., another suspect, was heard only as a witness and that no legal action had been taken against him.

Another instance of this is the case of 33 soldiers who were killed in an armed attack by PKK operatives in Bingöl province in 1993. Thirty-three unarmed soldiers were executed on the Bingöl-Elazığ highway in 1993 while traveling to join their military units. The details of an administrative investigation launched into the case recently emerged in additional files of an indictment against Ergenekon. When the Ergenekon prosecutors requested the files of the case from the Military Prosecutor’s Office, the General Staff said it has no document on the case.

A survivor, known as the 34th soldier, recently testified as a witness in the Ergenekon probe, stating that the attack, which took place at a time when efforts to bring about peace were blossoming, could have been prevented. He said the soldiers were being transported to another area unescorted by armed units.

Experts also underline that some other ongoing cases such as the one into the Action Plan to Fight Reactonaryism would also have been glossed over if civilian probes had not been launched into them.

The action plan is a subversive plot which details a military plan to destroy the image of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the faith-based Gülen movement in the eyes of the public, play down the Ergenekon investigation and gather support for members of the military arrested as part of the investigation into Ergenekon. The plot is believed to have been prepared by Col. Dursun Çiçek, who is currently in prison on coup charges. Among the generals who are believed to be linked to the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism are former 1st Army Corps Commander Gen. Hasan Iğsız, who was the deputy chief of General Staff when Çiçek drafted the plan, and Gen. Saldıray Berk, the commander of the 3rd Army.

Civilian prosecutors believe Çiçek received the order to prepare the action plan from Iğsız and worked in cooperation with Berk to put it into operation in the eastern province of Erzincan.

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