Waves of arrests in Turkey on suspicion of involvement in 'Ergenekon' organization

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Turkish police arrested two colonels and two lieutenants Saturday as part of a wide-reaching probe into a suspected coup plot. The arrests are the latest related to an alleged clandestine neonationalist organization referred to as "Ergenekon". The Ergenekon case has had adverse effects on financial markets in Turkey, a candidate for the European Union.

Turkey's state-run news service, Anatolian News, reported that the four Turkish army officers were arrested in Istanbul for alleged ties to a right-wing group suspected of conspiring to overthrow the AK Party government. 40 people were detained on Wednesday, including three retired army generals.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and General Ilker Basbug, Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, held crisis talks on Thursday to discuss the recent waves of arrests. General Basbug met with the prime minister after a six-hour meeting with military commanders, including members of the Gendarmerie, Turkish Air Force, and Army. After his meeting with the prime minister, General Basbug met with President Abdullah Gul. President Abdullah Gul met with Besir Atalay, Turkey's interior minister.

The talks between Erdogan and Basbug prompted a spate of selling on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, which fell by six percent on Thursday. TUSIAD, the main business association in Turkey, voiced its hope that investigators respect the legal rights of the suspects.

Turkish media also reported Saturday that law enforcement officials found ammunition and grenades buried near Golbasi lake outside Ankara, supposedly related to the Ergenekon organization. According to the Turkish media reports, police found a drawing in the home of former police chief Ibrahim Sahin, which led them to the site. Ibrahim Sahin was among the 40 individuals arrested Wednesday.

Cquote1.svg This is a regime change, like in the Khomeini and Hitler eras. Cquote2.svg

Deniz Baykal, leader of the Republican People's Party

Deniz Baykal, who heads Turkey's secular chief opposition party the Republican People's Party, was critical of the arrests made by police under the AK Party government. "We are witnessing a confrontation against the Republic's core values. This is a regime change, like in the Khomeini and Hitler eras," said Baykal at a news conference held Wednesday. According to Baykal, the Ergenekon investigation is an attempt by the government to silence opposition. Other members of the opposition have also criticized the investigation as being politically motivated.

In a statement published in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin asserted that the Ergenekon investigation is judicial and appropriate. "The investigation has no political aspects. Detentions are purely juridical. I follow developments from the press," said Şahin.

Cquote1.svg I am terrified here - anytime the wind is not in favor of the ruling party a new wave of this crap happens. Cquote2.svg

—Resident of Turkey, college graduate

Wikinews interviewed a college graduate and resident of Turkey who wished not to be named, and this individual shared thoughts on the effects of the Ergenekon investigation on local citizens. "It affected everyone in the country. Everyone wonders if they are next," said the source. "I am terrified here - anytime the wind is not in favor of the ruling party a new wave of this crap happens."

Members of the Turkish state bureaucracy, military, and judicial system make up the country's secularist establishment. According to Reuters, this secularist establishment states that the arrests carried out by the AK Party are retaliatory, in response to a 2008 court case. The court case attempted to ban the AK Party, which has roots in political Islam, for anti-secular activities. The AK Party has denied these claims.

Cquote1.svg The risk of a reaction by the military is growing as the Ergenekon probe is turning into a test of strength between the AKP and secularist circles. Cquote2.svg

—Wolfango Piccoli, Eurasia Group

"The risk of a reaction by the military is growing as the Ergenekon probe is turning into a test of strength between the AKP and secularist circles," said analyst Wolfango Piccoli of the Eurasia Group in a statement published in the Financial Times.

The investigation by the government began in June 2007, when officials discovered a cache of arms in Istanbul in the home of a retired military officer. According to The Guardian, in total approximately 200 people have been arrested in relation to the investigation. 86 individuals have been indicted since the investigation started, including many officials from the military and two retired four-star generals. In addition to military officials, the investigation has focused on journalists, writers, politicians and leaders of gangs. The murder of journalist Hrant Dink is sometimes cited as possibly linked to the Ergenekon case.

The indictments allege involvement in plans to increase instability in the country through political assassinations. Hürriyet reported that the Ergenekon investigation has faced criticism in the past for detaining suspects for extended periods of time in prison without charges, and for its reliance on insubstantial evidence. In the past 50 years, the country's military has intervened to topple four governments in Turkey.


Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Ergenekon and List of suspects in the Ergenekon investigation on Wikipedia.
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Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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