Wednesday saw critical developments in regard to trying coup plotters: An indictment against former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ was completed and forwarded to the court.
The indictment seeks life in prison for the former military chief on coup charges. Başbuğ was put behind bars by an İstanbul court after he testified last month as a suspect in an investigation into an alleged Internet campaign to discredit Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Turkey has seen some retired generals jailed in coup cases over the past few years, but Gen. Başbuğ, who retired in 2010, is the highest-ranking officer to be caught so far.
The indictment, submitted to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, accuses Başbuğ of “establishing or administering a terrorist organization” and “seeking to unseat the government of the Republic of Turkey by force.” In his defense, Başbuğ denied all charges.
Another significant development was the Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office launching of an investigation Wednesday into a highly controversial military memorandum issued April 27, 2007 against the AK Party government. Published online at www.tsk.tr close to midnight, the April 27 statement is more commonly referred to as the “e-memorandum” because it was an attempt by the Turkish military to openly interfere in politics. The statement said the military was following the debate over the secular system in the presidential election with “concern” and would “openly display [the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK)] position and attitude when it becomes necessary.”
The prosecutor is expected to summon former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, who admitted in 2009 to penning the e-memorandum, and other commanders who were in charge at the time, to testify as part of the investigation soon.
Jan. 28, Saturday
Billed flashily as the “Socrates of the modern era,” eminent Marxist and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek took the stage across İstanbul to address eager audiences in venues as far afield as a student-packed lecture hall at Mimar Sinan University and a bizarre talk on the fundamentals of marketing at the International Advertising Cup. When it came to the near-ubiquitous solicitations for his opinion on the Armenian genocide, Zizek was at his subversive best, encouraging Turkey to apologize for 1915 but rejecting the notion that Turkey “should apologize to Europe” given the continent’s own barbaric legacy of nation-building.
Jan. 29, Sunday
Turkey’s Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin cancelled a Baghdad trip to join a trilateral meeting between Turkey, Iraq and the US to combat terrorism in the region on the grounds that ties are strained between Turkey and Iraq following the Iraqi prime minister’s accusations that Turkey has intervened in Iraqi politics, the Turkish Milliyet daily reported on Sunday.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced that it will hold an extraordinary party congress on Feb. 26 at the Ankara Atatürk Sports Hall to discuss amending its current bylaws after the intra-party opposition collected 360 signatures to convene a congress.
Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış challenged France’s controversial genocide-denial bill in Switzerland, saying such efforts have no chance of survival. He said that the bill, which was recently approved by the French Senate and makes it a crime to deny the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 in Anatolia constitute a genocide, is null and void for Turkey, adding that “we believe there are more sane people in France than insane ones.”
The former owner of the Sabah daily, Dinç Bilgin, said the generals who forced a government to step down from power on Feb. 28, 1997, believed they were doing the right thing because they were the children of a corrupt system that was in place at the time.
Parliament has ordered the Court of Accounts, a high judiciary body responsible for inspecting the monetary transactions of public agencies, and the Undersecretariat of the Treasury to investigate alleged questionable business practices of the Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Center (OYAK), a holding company affiliated with the Turkish military that is active in various business sectors.
Jan. 30, Monday
The murder case of Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) President Kemal Türkler, who was killed 32 years ago in one of the most prominent political assassinations of the pre-1980 era in Turkey, has been taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by Türkler’s family after it was shuttled between a local court and the Supreme Court of Appeals for years.
An internal opposition group within the CHP accused party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of attempting to set the agenda of the coming extraordinary party congress, an action that the opposition group says is a direct violation of party law. Though the technicalities of the issue remain murky, opposition voices on Monday fiercely opposed a perceived move by Kılıçdaroğlu to “create a separate agenda” for the extraordinary party congress, an event that was scheduled for February after 362 deputies’ signatures were collected in a late January petition.
President Abdullah Gül said freedom of the press is an asset of democracy that should be protected most meticulously while warning that failure to protect this freedom will undermine Turkey’s achievements in other fields. “This [freedom of thought, freedom of the press and human rights] is the area that Turkey should protect most meticulously. If this area is sullied, no matter what you do in other fields, they [those accomplishments] will be of no value. We, the whole of Turkey, should pay close attention to this,” Gül told reporters during a flight to Abu Dhabi.
The trial of 21 suspects accused of belonging to the left-wing Revolutionary Path (Dev-Yol) organization ended when the Supreme Court of Appeals dropped the case on the grounds that the statute of limitations on the trial, which began in 1982, had expired.
A bill that will allow Turkish citizens residing abroad to vote at Turkish consulates and embassies was submitted to Parliament.
Jan. 31, Tuesday
For the second consecutive year, İstanbul has placed first among top European cities as the top preference of real estate investors in a recent survey jointly released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
Some 77 senators from across the political divide appealed to the France’s supreme Constitutional Council to overturn a bill that penalizes denial of Armenian genocide claims, a development that raised prospects of annulment of the controversial legislation that has angered Turkey. Another 65 lawmakers in the lower house agreed to the appeal.
A major investigation into a spy gang operating within the Turkish military has recently discovered a comprehensive blacklist of personnel from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). Recent discoveries by investigators showed that the gang held records on roughly 1,000 personnel from TÜBİTAK, a national organization that conducts confidential research, classifying individuals by category, including leftist, extreme nationalist, Alevi, reactionary, Armenian and Jewish. On the blacklist, some descriptions appear related to the private lives of personnel, including “womanizer” and “Satanist.” The records were found on Yücel Çipli’s computer, one of the three suspects from TÜBİTAK mentioned in the indictment.
In their ongoing search for justice, a group of people who identify themselves as “Hrant’s Friends” released a press statement calling on the government to punish the perpetrators in the 2007 murder of journalist Hrant Drink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent. Civil society was outraged when the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court issued its ruling in the 25th hearing of the Dink case this month, ending a five-year trial. The main suspects, Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel, as well as all other suspects were cleared of charges of membership in a terrorist organization. Tuncel was given 10 years, six months for an unrelated McDonald’s bombing in 2004.
Chairman of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) Mehmet Ali Aydınlar and two of his deputies, Lütfi Arıboğan and Göksel Gümüşdağ have decided to step down amid a match-fixing scandal that has rocked Turkish football since summer.
Feb. 1, Wednesday
An investigation under way in the East and Southeast of the country into state-sponsored murders that were mostly committed in the 1990s by an illegal group inside the gendarmerie known as JİTEM was expanded to include executions carried out by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of PKK members.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rebuffed recent statements by renowned US author Paul Auster, who said he refuses to travel to Turkey due to the high number of journalists jailed in the country. “American writer Paul Auster recently gave an interview to a Turkish daily. He said he refuses to travel to Turkey since he finds Turkey anti-democratic. He said he would not travel to Turkey because of jailed journalists. He said he also refuses to go to China. As if we need you! What difference would it make if you came or not? Would Turkey lose prestige?” Erdoğan said during a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) addressing Auster.
Three more skulls were unearthed during excavations in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, bringing the total count of human skulls found in the province’s historic İçkale neighborhood in the past three weeks to 26. The skulls were sent to the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) in İstanbul for DNA tests to reveal who the skulls belonged to.
A Danish bank has decided to freeze Denmark-based Roj TV’s accounts, following a judicial ruling that declared the station has links to the terrorist PKK.
Feb. 2, Thursday
Turkey is one of the most popular countries for residents of Middle Eastern nations, with 78 percent of people in the region saying they support the country’s policies, a recent study by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) has found.
An autopsy report recently prepared by the ATK of Col. Kazım Çillioğlu, who died 18 years ago as the result of what was declared to be a suicide by military investigators, revealed new evidence suggesting that Çillioğlu was in fact murdered.
The order for an airstrike that killed 34 civilians smuggling goods into Turkey over the border with Iraq in late December were given in full knowledge that the border-crossers were not PKK terrorists, contrary to the initial explanation the General Staff offered for the error.
Science and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün in a comment he made about the Turkish Air Force airstrike that killed 34 civilians, stated that the incident was the result of a mistake.
Feb. 3, Friday
Security forces killed five members of the terrorist PKK in a clash in Kozluk, located in the southeastern province of Batman.
The family of a food store owner who was killed in a racist neo-Nazi murder has said it finds the 10,000 euros in compensation the German government announced would be paid to the families of victims of neo-Nazi crimes to be an insult, and says it wants justice.
Ali Topuz of the CHP expressed doubts about the future of the opposition group, warning that infighting may “split up” Turkey’s oldest political party.
Preliminary forensic tests conducted by the ATK over the suspicious death of National Intelligence Organization (MİT) official Kaşif Kozinoğlu, who died in jail last year, have revealed no evidence that Kozinoğlu died of a heart attack, contrary to claims.