Army pays visit to Ergenekon suspects in Turkey

Army visit to the two terrorism suspects took place just a few hours before the meeting between PM Erdoğan and newly appointed Chief of General Staff Gen. Başbuğ.

Army pays visit to Ergenekon suspects in Turkey

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) yesterday sent an envoy to meet with two suspects in the Ergenekon terrorist organization case, retired Gen. Şener Eruygur and retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon, a statement on the General Staff Web site has said.

According to the statement, Kocaeli Garrison Commander Lt. Gen. Galip Mendi paid a visit yesterday to Kandıra prison inmates Eruygur and Tolon, who have been under arrest since July for alleged involvement in the Ergenekon terrorist organization, which is accused of orchestrating various murders and attacks with the intention of creating chaos that would trigger a coup. The Ergenekon case will start in October and its indictment was presented to the court, although Tolon and Eruygur were not mentioned in it since they were arrested months after the first arrests. It is expected that an additional indictment will be presented for Tolon and Eruygur as well as other suspects.

"This visit, paid to two retired generals who had served in the TSK for a long time, was made on behalf of the TSK," said the statement, issued just minutes after Gen. Mendi's meeting with the two terror suspects. "As is known, today, as in the past, the TSK fully respects and trusts the judiciary," the statement claimed.

PM Erdoğan said yesterday, upon a question from reporters, that the visit was a humane one.

The TSK's visit to the two terrorism suspects took place just a few hours before the meeting between Prime Minister Erdoğan and newly appointed Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ.

The Ergenekon terrorist organization was allegedly planning to instigate a coup in 2009, during which Gen. Başbuğ would be the chief of general staff. Ergenekon suspects, according to various documents seized during the operation, thought that former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt was not warm to the idea of a coup.

Some circles were critical of Büyükanıt because he was not taking sides in connection with the Ergenekon operation, although some former members of the army were under arrest. Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal indirectly accused the General Staff of not lending support to the Ergenekon suspects during Büyükanıt's term.

The CHP's general accountant, Mustafa Özyürek, after the TSK's visit to the terrorism suspects, noted that until now the TSK had not supported its former members and this situation created disappointment within the TSK and the public.

"It is now clear that Başbuğ's order has reversed this mistake," Özyürek claimed.

Professor Ali Nihat Özcan, familiar with how the TSK works, also said the visit indicates the difference in attitude between former and present TSK administrations.

"This statement is trying to say two things; first, this is not the personal initiative of the Kocaeli garrison commander but an institutional decision. Secondly, we cannot leave someone outside the system just because they have retired. This is not an intervention in the judiciary but a show of institutional adherence and we have to do it," Özcan says.

However, many experts, including public law professor Mithat Sancar, term this visit interference with the judiciary and a move that leads to the suspicion that the new command of the TSK is conducting a psychological operation, especially when the recent statement of the new commander of the air force is taken into consideration.

The day before, while answering a question from reporters regarding the arrest of an air force officer by a military court for alleged involvement in Ergenekon, the new commander of the air force, Gen. Aydoğan Babaoğlu, said it is not clear what the Ergenekon case is.

The officer is accused of leaking a top-secret document that was found during the investigation into Ergenekon. The document was prepared three years ago by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) for a select few top air forces officers and detailed an illegal organization within the air force.

According to Sancar, this visit is "tragicomic" and cannot have any reasonable explanation. "The TSK is not a community but an institution. This visit is like the Health Ministry sending an envoy to a doctor in prison who was arrested for corruption. Obviously, there is an intention of sending a message," Sancar said. Like Sancar, Yusuf Alataş, a lawyer and the former chairman of the Human Rights Association (İHD), underlined the "institutional" aspect of the TSK's visit.

"The directives of the Ministry of Justice clearly define the rules about visits to inmates and it is impossible to visit an inmate on behalf of an official institution. This is the first time in Turkish history such a thing has happened and it is impossible to say that this visit was paid purely for humanitarian reasons. This is a message to the judiciary and this is pressure on the judiciary," he said.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Eylül 2008, 08:31