The Ankara 11th High Criminal Court said there is no substantial evidence to suggest that the suspects attempted to overthrow the government.
The Atabeyler gang was uncovered in a police operation in the Eryaman region of Ankara in 2005. The gang reportedly had plans to assassinate Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some former ministers close to the prime minister. Its members were given prison sentences by a military court in 2007. Two of the gang's members were expelled from the military. A separate case against the gang members was initiated in the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court in 2007.
A news report published by the Radikal daily on Thursday included evidence that proved that Atabeyler is actually a criminal gang.
In 2006, four members of the military were planning to carry out attacks against Kurds. Their goals were to attack a supermarket owned by Cüneyd Zapsu, a Kurdish businessman and advisor to Prime Minister Erdoğan, with ammunition they stole from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and obtained from civilians. Just as they were planning for the most appropriate time to carry out the attack, they were captured. TNT, C4 explosives, hand grenades, weapons and mines were found in their homes. The leader of the group, Murat Eren, was expelled from the TSK. The members of the group, following a five-year-long trial, were only punished for keeping explosive materials.
The Atabeyler case is known as the first civilian attempt to expose gangs nested within the state bureaucracy that aimed to unseat democratically elected governments. A prosecutor involved in the Atabeyler case believed that the gang could have links to Ergenekon, a shadowy network accused of working to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government through acts of violence. The Ergenekon terrorist organization, as the prosecution calls it, was allegedly making plans to foment chaos in the country that would eventually justify a military coup d'état against the AK Party. It is suspected to be behind a number of political attacks, including the 2007 killing of a prominent ethnic Armenian journalist and a 2006 shooting at the Council of State that left a senior judge dead.
Although the Ankara court did not treat Atabeyler as a gang, Turkish courts have rulings that viewed university students who unfurled placards demanding free education as gang members. Some students who are members of a left-wing group were also treated as gang members by the court for writing “No to drugs” on walls.