The interrogators introduced themselves as members of JİTEM, an illegal extension of the gendarmerie that was responsible for so many atrocities in southeastern Turkey in the ‘90s.
Aydın and Şengül were questioned about their so-called missionary activities. When they appeared before the court they experienced quite a serious shock -- they were told that some people had filed complaints accusing them of insulting Islam. They denied the allegations, but nevertheless they were sent to a local prison. A month later they appeared before the court for their first hearing and were confronted by the so-called plaintiffs, to whom they had just tried to deliver Bibles and there had never been a talk amongst them about Islam or anything else.
The locals appeared to express shame and did finally confess that gendarmerie officers had coerced them to giving false statements that led to the arrest of the two men. Missionary activities are not a crime in Turkey but insulting a religion is.
Aydın and Şengül were released after this hearing and were acquitted later on. As soon as they were released from prison, they filed a complaint against these JİTEM members, who had introduced themselves only by their first names. The crimes committed by these gendarmerie officers were serious in nature, including restricting one’s freedom, creating false evidence, coercing witnesses to give false statements to judicial officials, and so on and so forth.
Unfortunately, their complaints were just lost in the labyrinths of judicial bureaucracy. In spite of their persistent efforts Aydın and Şengül could not succeed in bringing these criminal gendarmerie officers to justice.
When I look at back to these incidents that happened in 2000, I cannot help asking myself the same question again and again. If we could have succeeded in bringing charges against these JİTEM aides successfully, if we could have attracted public attention to this alarming incident, could we then have prevented the murder of three missionaries, including Necati Aydın, in 2007 in Malatya, which was part of a conspiracy that had been carefully and masterfully prepared by JİTEM/Ergenekon members? I think we could, but back then it was not possible to do that. The judiciary’s ears were deaf to any allegations implying any guilt on the part of military and the deep state. We were living in a kind of Kafkaesque world in those years.
In this column, I have written so many articles in which I have tried to explain why and how the Malatya massacre is connected to Ergenekon. Finally, last week, an Ergenekon prosecutor launched an operation and the police took a former gendarmerie commander in Malatya and some other gendarmerie officers, together with a lecturer from Malatya Inonu University, into custody. Seven of them are now in prison for their alleged involvement in the Malatya massacre and for being members of the Ergenekon gang, an ultranationalist clandestine network consisting of military and civilian members.
Actually, the names of all these people were mentioned before in various informant letters and in some statements given before the Malatya Court. For various reasons, prosecutors never acted upon these statements.
Last week, the Ergenekon prosecutor received a tape recording of a meeting of these alleged masterminds of the massacre. It is said that in this meeting they were talking about how the murder was prepared and what kind of consequences it produced.
Before the arrival of these tape cassettes, we knew that a secret witness, a former JİTEM aide, explained to the Ergenekon prosecutor how he slipped into the Protestant community and even became a pastor. Following orders by his superiors in JİTEM, he pretended to become Muslim once again and started a huge campaign against Protestant Christians across the country through the media and various publications.
With all this evidence, we understood that JİTEM/Ergenekon systematically prepared the groundwork for these murders and Malatya had a central role in the war against Christians across the country. It is understood that this former JİTEM aide’s salary was paid by the Malatya branch and Malatya was frequently visited by high profile figures from Ergenekon, who were planning to create the necessary conditions for a new military take over.
I think all of these matters that I have tried to explain are just some snapshots from details of Ergenekon’s campaign against Christians. In my Friday column I will try to look at the “big picture” through the window of the Malatya massacre.