World Bulletin / News Desk
Retired Col. Arif Doğan, who is a prime suspect in the Ergenekon trial, made shocking confessions about JİTEM, an illegal network inside the gendarmerie which is believed to have been responsible for thousands of unsolved murders in eastern and southeastern Turkey in the '90s.
“I am JİTEM. JİTEM exists with me. It is not official or permanent. It was an operations unit for intelligence set up for a temporary period,” he told the prosecution on Monday.
Doğan's remarks came during the 96th hearing in the second Ergenekon trial, where dozens of suspects stand accused on coup charges.
Ergenekon is a clandestine criminal network accused of working to overthrow the government. Dozens of suspected members, including businessmen, journalists and members of the military, are currently in prison pending trial.
Doğan arrived in an ambulance at the Silivri prison complex, where the trial is being held, and was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair. The retired colonel has been arrested on coup charges but released from prison in July of 2009 for health reasons.
“JİTEM belongs to me. It is the Gendarmerie Intelligence Group Command that I later handed over to Veli Pasha [retired Gen. Veli Küçük.] JİTEM exists with me. You will ask me if I am a state inside the state. My response is, no I am not,” he said.
Doğan also said he is not a traitor. “They say JİTEM is not legal. The General Staff and the gendarmerie [general command] deny its existence. I am not accusing anyone of lying. But I am saying what I should say,” the retired colonel noted.
As for the structure of JİTEM, Doğan said all of its members were civilian, other than himself. “All of JİTEM was civilian. I was the sole military member. There were 10,000 people,” he said. He argued that nearly 80,000 soldiers would have died if JİTEM had not existed. “They made me regret having founded JİTEM. We abolished it,” he added.
The military consistently denied the existence of JİTEM in the past.
The retired colonel also claimed that Abdükadir Aygan, a former Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) member who later became a member of JİTEM and made several revelations about the activities and workings of the secretive unit and provided details of crimes committed by gendarmes who worked for JİTEM, was killed a few years ago based on his orders.
“I had Aygan killed. He is dead. The PKK is using a dead man. They claim that he is living in Sweden. Force him to take a DNA test. I consent to any sentence you will give to me,” Doğan stated.
A voice recording allegedly featuring Doğan's voice was posted online anonymously in September, in which the speaker revealed scandalous facts about JİTEM. The voice, believed to be Doğan's, states: “Nobody knows about JİTEM but me. It came into being with me, it will end with me. I am JİTEM. They can't take orders from anybody but me.”
Other details from the hearing
The courtroom at the Silivri prison complex was packed with a large audience who were there to observe the hearing on Monday. Around 600 supporters of journalists Tuncay Özkan and Mustafa Balbay, both suspects in the Ergenekon case, arrived at the courthouse early in the morning. Most of the supporters came from İzmir province, in western Turkey. They were mainly members of the ultra-nationalist Biz Kaç Kişiyiz (How Many of Us?) movement. Among them was Atilla Sertel, chairman of the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC).
The supporters had trouble entering the courtroom as there was a rush to get inside the prison complex. They sat on seats reserved for the audience and members of the press.
The lawyer for retired Gen. Levent Ersöz told the prosecution during the hearing that his client's health condition is deteriorating and demanded that he be set free.
Ersöz has been hospitalized at İstanbul University's Çapa School of Medicine Hospital since August 2009. He was admitted there a few days after he was jailed the first time. Since then, he has moved back and forth between many hospitals. During his treatment, there were claims that Ersöz had become infected with flesh-eating bacteria after prostate surgery.
Balbay also spoke during the hearing and criticized the recent release of Hizbullah suspects from prison earlier this month under a newly amended law limiting the period of arrest for convicts pending an appeals process to 10 years. The suspects later went missing. “It is not the Hizbullah suspects who have gone missing. It is the law that has gone missing. The Hizbullah suspects admitted to killing many people. They were released pending trial, but we are being kept behind the bars without any evidence to justify it,” he said.
Balbay also noted that a prosecutor is seeking two consecutive life sentences and up to 300 years in prison for him.
“If you can guarantee that I will live that long, then it is OK by me. But the point we have reached shows that this trial will not continue this way. … Suspects who are charged with killing 184 people [referring to Hizbullah suspects] are free while we are in prison,” he complained.
I am JİTEM, it exists with me, says retired Col. Doğan
Retired Col. Arif Doğan, who is a prime suspect in the Ergenekon trial, made shocking confessions about JİTEM.
World Bulletin / News Desk