51 arrest warrants issued in relation to espionage probe

An İzmir court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for 51 people, most of whom are »»

An İzmir court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for 51 people, most of whom are retired and active duty officers of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), as part of the second wave of an operation conducted by the İzmir Police Department’s Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crimes Unit against a military espionage gang.

On Wednesday, simultaneous operations were launched in 16 provinces with police officers in those provinces searching military barracks, military housing complexes and other locations. The operation was led by the İzmir Police Department’s Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crimes Unit. The İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that arrest warrants had been issued for 51 people, 50 of whom are retired or active duty members of the TSK.

Details of the police operation have shown that the gang obtained top military secrets, including charts of military barracks and bases, information about munitions stores and software programs of warplanes and other military vehicles. The gang also illegally obtained personal information about around 2,500 members of the TSK, most of whom are on active duty, and blackmailed them using the information in order to ensure that the officers cooperated with the gang.

According to the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, 47 of those detained are active duty officers, while one is a retired colonel, and one is a civil servant. The remaining two suspects are reportedly abroad. Those in custody are allegedly serving in critical positions in the Ministry of Defense, the Land Forces Command, the Naval Forces Command and the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA).

The 51 suspects are reportedly accused of involvement in a military espionage gang. The first wave of arrests against the gang members began in May, when 20 people were arrested for involvement in the gang. The arrestees stand accused of prostitution, human trafficking, blackmail, illegally obtaining military information and establishing and running a criminal organization.

June 9, Saturday

The prosecutor who is conducting the investigation into the deaths of 34 civilians who were killed in a military air strike staged by Turkish jets near the Iraqi border in Şırnak’s Uludere district in December said the prosecution is trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle.

The first Rum (Anatolian Greek) radio station, Iho Tis Polis (ITP, or “Echo of the City”) has started broadcasting from İstanbul and is currently listened to by some 5,000 people in 60 countries, ranging from South Africa to Canada, in addition to Turkey and Greece. ITP, which began broadcasting about a month ago, has most of its listeners in Turkey, followed by Greece.

June 10, Sunday

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to take part in efforts to find a solution to the Kurdish issue in Antalya. “The MHP and the BDP should give up standing guard in front of morgues. They should give up exploiting our martyrs and the funerals of terrorists. They should get involved in this process for a solution [to the Kurdish issue],” Erdoğan said. The process Erdoğan referred to is a recent initiative launched by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and backed by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to seek a solution to the Kurdish issue through consensus among all political parties.

Van Mayor Bekir Kaya and two others were arrested by a court on charges of membership in a terrorist organization after being detained on Thursday as part of an investigation into the urban extension of the terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake occurred off the coast of Ölüdeniz, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. No damage or casualties were reported, but the tremor caused panic in the resort town and neighboring districts.

June 11, Monday

A voice recording allegedly features Rear Adm. Fatih Ilgar, who is currently in prison on suspected links to the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot, claiming a widening rift between President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Erdoğan that will result in the defeat of one of them.

Şemdin Sakık, a former commander of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has claimed that Iran took the weapons it had given to the terrorist group to support its fight against the Turkish military after the group declared a cease-fire in 1993 in recent testimony to a civilian prosecutor in Diyarbakır. Sakık told the prosecutor that he would provide him with information that he had kept secret for 19 years. “Iran said that it had given us [the PKK] the weapons to hit [Turkey]. It decided to take the weapons back after we declared a cease-fire in 1993,” the ex-terrorist commander reportedly said.

Mehmet Bora Perinçek, the son of Workers’ Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek, an Ergenekon suspect, admitted in a hearing that he knew retired Gen. Veli Küçük, one of the key figures in the Ergenekon case. Bora Perinçek admitted that he met with retired Gen. Küçük before a demonstration, which was jointly organized by the İP and the MHP to discuss the Cyprus issue in 2003.

President Gül said the country’s new constitution should not be the work of a single party and that it should embrace all segments of society. Gül’s remarks came during a meeting with members of the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, who briefed him about the ongoing work on the constitution. “There is no reason for the incumbent Parliament not to write the new constitution. The constitution should not be a text that is the work of a single party, it should be a text that will embrace the entire society,” Gül told members of the commission.

June 12, Tuesday

Prime Minister Erdoğan said Kurdish will be offered as an elective course at public schools. Erdoğan announced the introduction of elective Kurdish language classes at his AK Party group meeting. On the same day, Erdoğan also said the country’s specially authorized courts may be totally abolished, contrary to statements by his deputy on Monday that no revision is planned in this regard as part of a government plan to overhaul the Turkish criminal code.

Independent Van deputy Aysel Tuğluk was sentenced to 14.5 years in prison on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “engaging in crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization.” However, the ruling has received a negative reaction from jurists and public opinion leaders, who note that the sentence stems from problems with Turkey’s counterterrorism legislation.

The AK Party, promising to go ahead with further democratization steps and a new constitution in last year’s June 12 national elections, got half of the votes, but the party seems to be rapidly losing ground among opinion makers, who now claim the governing AK party has begun to exhibit authoritarian tendencies. Mehmet Altan from the department of economics at İstanbul University interprets the recent discussions, started by Prime Minister Erdoğan, about abortion and the building of a mosque on one of the hills overlooking the Bosporus in İstanbul as a manifestation of his authoritarian tendencies. Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Altan said, “These discussions clearly demonstrate that the government wants to bring about a transition in which the country will switch from secular Kemalism to religious Kemalism.” Koray Çalışkan, a political scientist at Boğaziçi University, agrees. Referring to the recent dismissal of a journalist because he had written an article criticizing the government about the Uludere incident, Çalışkan remarked, “In a not too distant future, any of us may find ourselves one day dismissed because of the opinions we may express,” adding that this would mean the AK Party would acquire the characteristics of the CHP of the 1930s in which the CHP, being the only party at the time, was not an entirely separate entity from the state.

The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) did not provide any intelligence ahead of an air strike by Turkish military jets that led to the death of 34 civilians in Uludere, Hakkari province, near the Turkish border with Iraq, according to the findings of a parliamentary commission investigating what went wrong on the day of the attack.

June 13, Wednesday

An İzmir court issued arrest warrants for 51 people, most of whom are retired and active duty officers of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), as part of the second wave of an operation conducted by the İzmir Police Department’s Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crimes Unit against a military espionage gang.

The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) changed the posts of 2,335 judges and prosecutors as part of a large-scale reshuffle, divesting some key prosecutors of their special authority and removing them from critical investigations such as an ongoing match-fixing probe and several coup investigations. The HSYK stripped prosecutors overseeing the Sledgehammer, Ergenekon and match-fixing investigations of their special authorities.

A voice allegedly belonging to intelligence officer Ömer Faruk Gürüz, who is known for his close ties with retired Gen. Şener Eruygur, is heard telling Eruygur and his wife that the Ergenekon case is “finally over” and suspects under arrest will be released from prison soon, in a recording released anonymously on Tuesday. Eruygur is a suspect pending trial in the case against the Ergenekon terrorist organization.

Thousands of people, including Prime Minister Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and various other ministers paid their final respects to the honorary chairman of Yıldız Holding, Sabri Ülker, who died aged 92 on Tuesday, in a funeral ceremony held in the Fatih Mosque.

June 14, Thursday

Assassination plans hatched by the PKK against state officials in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır were foiled as counterterrorism and intelligence units captured three suspects in the midst of preparations to attack the governor and the police chief.

More than 800 Syrians crossed the border into Turkey, signaling a spike in the number of refugees amid fears that the Syrian army is planning a major offensive in the city of Aleppo close to the Turkish border.

The State Audit Institution (DDK), which recently ended a two-year investigation into the death of eighth President Turgut Özal 20 years ago, wants more powers to conduct investigations more efficiently. The DDK, which is part of the President’s Office, disclosed its findings from the investigation into Özal’s death, saying the circumstances surrounding the former president’s death were highly suspicious and suggested an exhumation and testing of the remains and, if possible, hair samples for signs of poisoning.

Legendary Italian prosecutor Felice Casson, who prosecuted members of Operation Gladio, a NATO stay-behind paramilitary force left over from the Cold War in Italy, stated that pressure on jurists and the judiciary coming from politicians in Turkey will not allow investigations to be carried out in an independent and correct manner.

June 15, Friday

While the General Staff still denies the existence of JİTEM, an anti-terror unit within the gendarmerie believed to be behind thousands of atrocities in the East and Southeast in the 1990s, an official document, which includes a list of JİTEM officers, was unveiled and released by a media outlet.

Parliament on Friday approved an ombudsman bill despite criticism from some parties because the bill excludes military actions from the jurisdiction of ombudsman inspections. An ombudsman is an independent public authority assigned to hear complaints or grievances concerning the delivery of public services and to investigate such matters and rectify or solve them.

The Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal filed by the CHP requesting the annulment of a new law setting the presidential term at seven years for incumbent Abdullah Gül. The court also annulled part of the law that barred Mr. Gül from running for another term, saying that it is unconstitutional to limit his rights.

The Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a request from CHP Denizli deputy İlhan Cihaner, who faces charges of membership in a terrorist organization, to drop the case against him on the grounds that he is a member of Parliament. A lawyer for Cihaner, who appeared along with 14 suspects, including retired Gen. Saldıray Berk, before the 11th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on Friday, demanded that the court drop the case against his client, citing the immunity from prosecution of deputies.

Families of the victims of Uludere and civil society organizations that have Islamic sensitivities renewed their call for justice with a press conference in which they directly addressed Prime Minister Erdoğan to stand up for justice over the military attack that killed 34 civilians on the Turkish-Iraqi border near Uludere last December.


Weekly Almanac