Retired Col. Arif Doğan, who claims to be the founder of JİTEM, a clandestine and illicit unit within the gendarmerie, testified to prosecutor Zekeriya Öz at the Beşiktaş Courthouse in İstanbul on Thursday and Friday. Doğan, who is awaiting trial in the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine organization accused of plotting to overthrow the government, has spoken with various newspapers over the past few days, saying that he wants to testify to prosecutors before he dies, citing various medical conditions from which he is suffering. There are more than 100 defendants in the trial, and although Doğan was also scheduled to testify before the court, he said he wished to speak sooner.
His newspaper interviews and a recording of his voice posted online anonymously last week have led to the reopening of an investigation into the death of a gendarmerie commander 17 years ago.
According to newspaper reports, in his testimony to Öz, one of the prosecutors conducting the Ergenekon investigation, Doğan said Veli Küçük -- a retired general and a prime suspect in Ergenekon -- and Mahmut Yıldırım -- a mysterious figure who is presumed dead who carried out various JİTEM operations as a hit man -- had used JİTEM for “their own interests.” Yıldırım is better known as Yeşil -- his code name.
Doğan did not respond to questions from the press as he left the courthouse yesterday after testifying to Öz. He told them, “Tomorrow [Friday] I will come back to testify again. I am diabetic. I can’t really talk much.”
Sources said Doğan spoke about the death of Gen. Eşref Bitlis, who was killed in a plane crash in 1993 while investigating questionable links between the military, terrorists and other groups. On Thursday, the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the death of Bitlis, mostly based on statements from Doğan and also on statements from Ahmet Özal -- the son of Turkey’s eighth president, Turgut Özal -- who he had reason to believe Bitlis’ death was not an accident.
Another person, retired Col. Hasan Tüysüzoğlu, a former military prosecutor who carried out the initial investigation into the crash 17 years ago, spoke to the press earlier this week, recalling that he had every reason to suspect sabotage.
Sources also say that Doğan in his testimony described in detail the “killing” of Gen. Bitlis. According to Doğan’s testimony, Maj. Cem Ersever -- another JİTEM member who was killed in 1993 -- and Yeşil planned Bitlis’ plane crash.
Diyarbakır prosecutor to talk to Doğan
In related developments, the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office has decided to petition the İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office to issue a subpoena for Doğan to testify in an ongoing trial regarding JİTEM activities in the region. In the voice recording posted online last week, Doğan speaks of murders committed by Col. Cemal Temizöz -- currently on trial for having killed nine people in the 1990s whose remains were found last year in an acid well in the Southeast. The Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the Temizöz murders as well as various other unsolved murders from the ’90s. In the recording, Doğan also says that he established a “bearded team” to fan Alevi-Sunni clashes and distributed 7,000 “unlicensed firearms” and “raised terrorists.” He says in the recording that he ran crime gangs using 10,000 armed men who were loyal to him. Doğan in his testimony reportedly said that he was “voluntarily telling everything before I die.” Court officials also said that his testimony from Thursday and Friday will be sent to the prosecutors in Diyarbakır.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Bitlis investigation say that prosecutor Hüseyin Görüşen – who re-launched the investigation on Thursday -- will soon request a copy of the initial investigation into Bitlis conducted by the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the General Staff, which had at the time dismissed the investigation after an initial probe.
Meanwhile, crime scene investigator Tüysüzoğlu spoke to the Taraf daily yesterday, reiterating his earlier claim that the plane crash was caused by sabotage. In related developments, Tahir Elçi, a lawyer for the families of the victims in the Temizöz case yesterday said, Doğan’s voice recording will cause the beginning of many other criminal complaints being filed by victims of the organization and their families. He said this was the most clear proof of the existence JİTEM, which ahs been officially denied for years.