Since its first wave following the hand grenades seized in Ümraniye in the summer of 2007, the Ergenekon case had always found a sizable body of opponents. In early 2008, everyone started to feel the seriousness of the Ergenekon case as Veli Küçük and his cronies were arrested.
When it touched the generals, Şener Eruygur and Hurşit Tolon, this case and, along with it, prosecutor Zekeriya Öz became the focus of the hate-filled gazes of the deep state as well as of neonationalist, Kemalist and secularist groups that used to benefit from the state and obtain class privileges from it.
The atmosphere they tried to create then was no different from that of today. There were efforts, they argued, to challenge the regime over the Ergenekon case. Kemalists were being liquidated. This case was trivial and just camouflage, they said. Thus, they put prosecutor Öz and his colleagues in the bull’s eye of incredible pressure. “Where is the indictment?” they asked. “Why are reputable people being victimized?” they inquired.
Despite the fact that he was investigating a form of state governance, a mentality, or a despicable enmity against the public, which dates back almost a century ago in the country, they were expecting prosecutor Öz to give us the entire picture in one fell swoop as if he was conducting an ordinary investigation. Of course, theirs were not sincere expectations. But their intention was to exert pressure on the prosecutors and judges and sabotage the process. The prosecutors were working on a broken/ideological judicial platform where an ordinary financial dispute may take 20 years to complete, and they had to work swiftly and become successful while the deep state’s evidence obscuring, solidarity and disinformation machine was running at full speed.
The first indictment, penned under such pressures, was really rushed. Although it contained significant links and evidence, there were efforts to discredit it by bringing the redundant details to the fore. The judicial tutelage and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) devoted all their time to attacking this case. They tried to remove prosecutor Öz and his colleagues from office at every opportunity. We went through the infamous crises created by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Thanks to Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin’s unflinching stance, all these efforts went up in smoke.
But now, prosecutor Öz has been sacked at the most unexpected moment. Despite the fact that the HSYK had recently been restructured to become relatively democratic and civilian, this removal came as a shock to many.
No one believes this is a routine practice or that prosecutor Öz was promoted. Ahead of the polls, the HSYK took a big step back to boost the morale of the groups who seek to undermine the Ergenekon case. The pro-Ergenekon lobby had failed in respect of İlhan Selçuk, Türkan Saylan and Hanefi Avcı, but they got what they sought as regards Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener. Although he managed to decipher the dark focus called Odatv, prosecutor Öz was sent to the gallows even before the indictment and the related evidence was made public. With election-centered concerns, they bowed to external pressure. It was the new HSYK that committed the biggest illegality. It meddled with the very important case at the most important stage. This was unacceptable; still it happened.
If prosecutor Öz had made a procedural error, the proper way would have been to apply to a higher court for review. If there was something worse than this, then prosecutor Öz should not have been promoted but should have been prosecuted. But we know from the HSYK’s statement that this did not apply to prosecutor Öz. So the conclusion is that the prosecutor has been purged and, moreover, this operation has been camouflaged as a promotion. This picture is nothing but an absurdity in the name of the rule of law and collective conscience.
We know from the “Clean Hands” operation in Italy that such cases are special. They need both political will and public support. This is because there is a state within the state, and uninterrupted efforts are needed to bring them to justice. Indeed, in Italy, prosecutor Felice Casson saw the process through from beginning to end. A total of 7,000 people, including a former president, were arrested and/or sentenced. Prosecutor Casson, too, faced serious attacks and defamation efforts from certain groups, but he was never left alone. Thus, the political and judicial authorities had given full support to him and his colleagues, while they were being criticized for touching certain members of the military and certain bureaucrats.
I would like to remind you of an important detail. What led to Öz’s removal from office may not be the Şık incident, but another and more important development that has been quietly maturing. And if this is the case, then everyone must be much more careful.
As you might notice, prosecutor Öz was about to illuminate the massacre of Christian missionaries at the Zirve (meaning “summit” in Turkish) Publishing House in Malatya. With audio recordings and secret witness testimony, he was about to confirm that some groups nested in the Malatya Gendarmerie Command and İnönü University had planned and contracted these murders. This would mean significant strides for the Ergenekon case as the serious murders committed by Ergenekon would be clearly substantiated. The Zirve massacre would mean finding the missing link between specific and important figures and Ergenekon. From there, the investigation could easily move on to Hrant Dink’s murder and the killing of priest Andrea Santoro.
In this way, a break would be seen as Ergenekon’s resistance was overcome, and the real monster could be seen by everyone.
Thus, one is urged to ask: Can it be that Öz’s removal from office is connected more with Zirve than with Sık or Şener? My fear is that a limit might have been reached here. Using the propaganda voiced by the groups who applaud Öz’s removal, they may attempt to send this most important trial of the country into oblivion.
The government and the HSYK say the trial will continue unharmed. Prosecutor Fikret Seçen is also an experienced and bold person. But we all know very well that there isn’t any reason a second Şemdinli incident won’t happen if the political will withdraws its support from prosecutors. Everyone is saying prosecutor Öz has become exhausted. But what if it’s the political will that has become tired? Even worse, what if there are concerns about the deep state becoming completely exposed?
My hope is that these concerns are groundless. Everything depends on the steps that will be taken from now on. As the valuable writer Hüseyin Gülerce said, sacrificing Ergenekon will be the beginning of the end of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). While I think this is unlikely, it is still a possibility. Keep your eyes on Zirve. Actions that are taken, or not taken, in that investigation will be the answer to these questions.