[Event of the week] 17 soldiers killed in helicopter crash in eastern Turkey
Soldiers stand near the flag-draped coffins of 17 soldiers at a funeral ceremony in Diyarbakır on Sunday. The soldiers died in a helicopter crash in Siirt last Saturday. (PHOTO AA, İBRAHİM YAKUT)
Seventeen soldiers perished when their helicopter crashed in the eastern province of Siirt on Saturday, Nov. 10. The Sikorsky helicopter reportedly crashed into Herekol Mountain in the Pervari region of Siirt due to adverse weather conditions.
Siirt Governor Ahmet Aydın said all of the soldiers aboard the helicopter were killed in the crash. Fourteen of the victims were members of the gendarmerie forces, and the rest were helicopter crew, he said. The soldiers were being transported to a region near the Turkish border with Iraq to help troops in their fight against terrorists. Aydın said three officers, four noncommissioned officers, one special sergeant and nine privates were killed in the crash.
Last Sunday, an official funeral ceremony was held for the victims of the helicopter crash at Diyarbakır’s main airport. The ceremony was attended by politicians, military officers and thousands others who paid their final respects to the soldiers. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and many other ministers were present at the ceremony for the 17 soldiers killed while on duty. In a statement on Monday, the General Staff said the crashed helicopter was well maintained and was not subjected to any terrorist attack.
The military body said the helicopter crashed due to adverse weather conditions and that the exact reason behind the accident will be known after a technical examination is completed. The General Staff said it felt the need to clarify the incident and answer allegations that appeared in the media. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said in a written statement following the accident that the possibility of a terrorist attack, negligence and recklessness of the authorities should not be ignored while investigating the reason for the helicopter crash.
Nov. 10 Saturday
Seventeen soldiers perished when their helicopter crashed in the eastern province of Siirt. The Sikorsky helicopter reportedly crashed into Herekol Mountain in the Pervari region of Siirt due to adverse weather conditions.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey might discuss bringing back the death penalty in cases of acts of terror and murder, speaking to journalists on a plane en route to Ankara from Brunei. “This may not be the case for political crimes, but it may be possible, for sure, to discuss [bringing back] the death penalty in connection with crimes of terror and causing the deaths of people,” the prime minister stated.
Nov. 11 Sunday
Politicians, military officers and thousands others paid their final respects to soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash in the eastern province of Siirt in an official ceremony held at Diyarbakır’s main airport. Prime Minister Erdoğan, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and many other ministers were present at the ceremony for the 17 soldiers killed while on duty.
The 34th edition of the Vodafone İstanbul Eurasia Marathon took place with the participation of more than 13,000 runners from 88 countries around the world. The marathon saw Ethiopian, Kenyan and Turkish athletes dominate in the 2012 European Capital of Sport.
The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) honored Turkey’s minority groups and oppressed voices in its 4th Coexistence Awards in the hopes of encouraging those promoting peaceful coexistence with a sustained effort despite scarce resources. The awards ceremony at İstanbul’s Congress Center attracted thousands of audience members including officials, intellectuals and public figures who expressed their solidarity and approval with a loud standing ovation for the award winners who are not often heard of but were recognized for their courageous strides in their bid to mitigate animosity and foster peaceful coexistence.
Nov. 12 Monday
Retired Gen. Ergin Saygun testified to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court as a witness in the trial against the Ergenekon terrorist organization and said he regrets being considered a coup plotter. “I have no knowledge of Ergenekon. What saddens me is to be considered a coup plotter. I will spend the rest of my life getting rid of this [coup plotter] label. I am not in good health. Doctors told me that my health would not improve. … I pray to God to allow me to live longer to get rid of the coup plotter label,” he told the court.
Tensions on the Turkish-Syrian border escalated sharply again when Syrian warplanes hit opposition targets just meters away from Turkish territory, reportedly prompting reconnaissance flight by Turkish jets over the area. At least six people were killed and dozen others injured when the Syrian warplanes bombed Ras al-Ain, a border town held by opposition fighters. One rocket-propelled grenade also landed in Turkey and the force of the aerial bombing shattered windows of buildings in the Turkish town of Ceylanpınar. The grenade landed in an empty field near Ceylanpınar and no one was injured.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that the Syrian opposition needs the full support of the international community and as the opposition groups are no longer divided, there is no excuse left for foreign governments to refrain from giving them this support, as the newly formed opposition set out to gain recognition and wider backing for the struggle to topple President Bashar al-Assad and take over the country.
NATO will defend alliance member Turkey, which struck back after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its border, the alliance’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a meeting in Prague. “NATO as an organization will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey, our ally. We have all plans in place to make sure that we can protect and defend Turkey and hopefully that way also deter so that attacks on Turkey will not take place,” Rasmussen said.
The Turkish Parliament approved the controversial, government-sponsored Metropolitan Law, which seeks to make changes to the current system of local government. After Parliament began discussions of the bill, deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) got into a war of words with opposition party members over the bill’s content. The opposition -- the CHP, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -- argued that the changes would allow the ruling party to run more municipalities after the next local elections, scheduled for March 2014.
Retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon, who was named the prime suspect in an indictment prepared in June in the case of the 2007 Zirve Publishing House murders, attended the 47th hearing of the trial in Malatya where he described the accusations against him as “slanderous.” The murders involve the brutal killing of three employees of the Christian publishing house. The trial is being heard at the Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court.
The General Staff said in a statement that a helicopter that crashed in southern Turkey on Saturday, killing 17 soldiers, was well maintained and was not subjected to any terror attacks.
Turkish Twitter users posted over 1.5 million tweets under the hashtag #dershanemolmasaydı (“if my university prep school didn’t exist”) to protest the government’s recent plan to eliminate dershanes, or private educational institutions that prepare students for examinations.
Nov. 13 Tuesday
Erdoğan warned Syria that Turkey would not hesitate to respond with “much harsher” measures if threatened, as Syrian aerial bombing of an area near the border continued for a second day, putting Ankara’s earlier pledges to defend its borders to the test. “We are giving the necessary response on the border and will not refrain from a much harsher response if necessary,” said Erdoğan while speaking at a parliamentary group meeting. “Nobody should play with fire or try to test Turkey’s patience,” he said.
The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) concluded in a new report to an İstanbul court that documents seized from the OdaTV news portal had been transferred to the portal’s computers from an external device, either via a USB flash drive, CD or DVD, and not by a computer virus attached in an e-mail as previously claimed by OdaTV staff.
The government submitted a proposal to Parliament which, if passed, will allow the use of Kurdish by suspects to present their defense statements to judges during trials -- currently banned by law.
Erdoğan referred to BDP deputies’ recent hunger strike in support of hundreds of inmates in Turkish prisons as an attempt to increase tension, calling terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders “terrorism barons.”
The Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs terminated a contract with AKC Petroleum Goods for the management of a picnic area in Fatih Forest after the company transferred its management rights to leading Turkish construction company Ağaoğlu. The ministry launched an investigation into a project known as “Maslak 1453,” which will be built by Ağaoğlu, after claims that the ministry had allocated part of the Fatih Forest for the project. The investigation found that the AKC Petroleum Goods had breached the rules of the agreement by transferring its management rights without getting permission from the ministry.
A total of 20 people were detained in simultaneous operations conducted across eight provinces against an exam-cheating gang with alleged links to the terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said there is no work under way at his ministry for the reinstatement of capital punishment. “The government does not have work [under way] at the moment to bring back the death penalty,” he said when speaking at a parliamentary session held to discuss the budget allocated for his ministry for 2013.
Nov. 14 Wednesday
A parliamentary commission seeking to shed light on military interventions in politics in Turkey’s recent history made a request for Prime Minister Erdoğan to testify.
One of the secret witnesses in the high-profile Ergenekon trial disclosed his identity at the 261st hearing of the trial, demanding, however, that the court ensure that his name was not released to the media. The witness, known as Nine, asked the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which is hearing the case on the alleged Ergenekon criminal network, that his testimony be delivered without his voice and that his appearance be distorted. The witness also refuses to have his name printed by the media. Witness Nine’s request was accepted by the court.
Nov. 15 Thursday
According to data released by the central bank, Turkey’s current account deficit (CAD) was reduced by $21.185 billion in the first nine months of the year to $39.281 billion.
The Turkish unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in August, a slight 0.4 point increase over a month ago, data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) revealed.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) celebrated the 29th anniversary of its establishment, amid brotherly messages from Turkish officials marking the day. Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek sent congratulatory messages to his counterpart in the KKTC, Hasan Bozer, and to KKTC President Derviş Eroğlu in honor of the day.
Turkish leaders strongly condemned Israel for a series of strikes on the Gaza Strip that have killed many civilians, calling on the United Nations to take “principled action” against the aggression and stop Israel’s continued attacks immediately.
In a surprise move, the ruling AK Party expanded the immunity of deputies to include the crime of separatism and crimes committed against the regime, paving the way for the release of jailed deputies. The AK Party submitted the proposal to Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, Turkish media outlets reported.
Nov. 16 Friday
Journalist Soner Yalçın, owner of the OdaTV news portal, told an İstanbul court that he will not forgive the Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) because of a report the council prepared recently in which it said documents seized from the OdaTV offices detailing plans to foment chaos in society had not been transferred to the computers of the portal by a virus.
Three prosecutors who stood trial on charges of violating procedure in a massive corruption case involving German-based Turkish charity Deniz Feneri e.V. were acquitted of charges leveled against them.