The "Ergenekon network" or "Ergenekon" is an uncovered clandestine ultra-nationalist organization in Turkey with ties to the country's military and security apparatus. According to the indictment prepared by three Turkish prosecutors handling the Ergenekon case, the group, which has been compared to Operation Gladio, is an embodiment of the "deep state"; an anti-democratic coalition that holds "the reins of real power" in Turkey.
It has been indicted on charges of plotting to foment unrest in Turkey, inter alia by assassinating intellectuals, politicians, judges, military staff, religious leaders, and other public figures including Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, with the ultimate goal of toppling the present government. The coup was planned to take place in 2009. This follows allegations published in Nokta that several abortive coups with the same intent were planned a few years ago.
86 people, including important personalities from the army, business and the secular press, have been charged with conspiracy as of 14 July 2008. Those arrested have included nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz; the leader of the nationalist Workers' Party Dog(u Perinçek; retired brigadier general Veli Küçük, retired full general Hurs,it Tolon, and retired full general S,ener Eruygur. I.lhan Selçuk, a staunchly secular columnist at Cumhuriyet's daily, has also been indicted on charges of being the civilian leader of Ergenekon. Tuncay Özkan, former owner of Kanal Türk TV station, and 16 others, were detained in September 2008.
65 people are detained as of September 22, and trials will begin on October 20, 2008.
In an interview given to the Workers' Party's weekly Ayd?nl?k on 5 January 1997, journalist Erol Mütercimler said Ergenekon is a Gladio-esque gang hidden deep within the state: "It is above the General Staff, the MI.T and the Prime Minister. There are generals, heads of police departments and businessmen within this organization." Mütercimler was detained during Ergenekon operations but released. Mütercimler is widely credited as being the first person to have written about Ergenekon:
Defining it as a gang simplifies Ergenekon. What is a gang? It is the engagement of a number of people in illegal affairs. You cannot define Ergenekon as a gang. It is a unit of a big organization. Alparslan Türkes, [i.e. leader of the Nationalist Movement Party] and Turgut Sunalp (retired general) were within the Ergenekon formation. "
As I worked within the state for long years, I know that forming such organizations necessitates a big budget. It is not easy to establish such an organization as Ergenekon. It, first of all, must have a great staff. There must be businessmen within this organization. There may be drug traffickers as well. "
Mütercimler heard of the organization's existence from retired general Memduh Ünlütürk, who was involved in the Ziverbey torture incidents following the 1971 coup, and murdered by Dev Sol militants on April 7, 1991. Major general Ünlütürk told Mütercimler that Ergenekon was founded with the support of the CIA and Pentagon.
One of the first articles about Ergenekon to appear in the Turkish media was by Taha K?vanç, who based his 2001 article on a report dated 29 October 1999 and titled "Ergenekon: Analysis, Structuring, Management, and Development Project".
Based on documents allegedly prepared by one of the prosecutors, an article in Sabah says that the organization consists of six cells with the following personnel:
* Secret and civil cells liaisons: Veli Küçük and Muzaffer Tekin.
* Lobbyists: M. Zekeriya Öztürk, Kemal Kerinçsiz, I.smail Y?ld?z, and Erkut Ersoy.
* NGO head: Sevgi Erenerol. Kemal Kerinçsiz (assistant).
* Theory, Propaganda, and Disinformation Department head: Dog(u Perinçek.
* Mafia structuring head: Veli Küçük. Muzaffer Tekin yard?mc?s?.
* Underground contacts: Ali Yasak, Sami Hos,tan, Semih Tufan Gülaltay, and Sedat Peker.
* Terrorist organizations heads: Veli Küçük and Dog(u Perinçek.
* University structuring: Kemal Yalç?n Alemdarog(lu, Emin Gürses, Habib Ümit Say?n
* Research and information gathering head: Mehmet Zekeriya Öztürk.
* Judicial branch heads: Kemal Kerinçsiz, Fuat Turgut, and Nusret Senem.
Of those, the structure of only the "Theory" department has been deciphered as of September 2008.
The investigation began in July 2007, when it was discovered that a house in the Ümraniye district of Istanbul was being used as a storehouse for arms and ammunition.
The Turkish media reports that the prosecutor carrying out the investigation asked the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), the Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish police officials whether an organization called Ergenekon is a terrorist organization or not. The National Intelligence Organization and police officials admitted that it is a terrorist organization, while the General Staff said it did not have information to support this claim. Ergenekon chief prosecutor Zekeriya Öz revealed that the MIT had been aware of the network's existence since July 2002. The first informant was a policeman who said that he had found detailed documents in the seized computer of Tuncay Güney I.pek, a former journalist who was arrested on charges of conspiracy. Güney is now rabbi "Daniel Levi" at the Jacobs House Jewish Community Center in Toronto, Canada.
The Istanbul Court of Assize for Organised Crimes and Terror Crimes is handling the investigation, officially numbered 2007/1536 and sometimes referred to by the name of the location where a cache of weapons was found in 2007, Ümraniye. The indictment number is 2008/623 and the base number (Turkish: esas numarasi) is 2008/968.
The prosecutors are Zekeriya Öz (prosecutor-in-chief), Mehmet Ali Pekgüzel and Nihat Tas,k?n. The judge is Köksal S,engün.
The investigation exposed alleged links between an armed attack on the Turkish Council of State in 2006 that left a judge dead, a bombing of a secularist newspaper, threats and attacks against people accused of being unpatriotic and the 1996 Susurluk incident, as well as links to the plans of some groups in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to overthrow the present government. According to the investigation, Ergenekon had a role in the murder of Hrant Dink, a journalist of Armenian ethnicity., as well as in the killing of Italian priest Father Andrea Santoro in February 2006 and the brutal murders of three Christians, one a German national, killed in the province of Malatya in April 2007. Furthermore, files about JI.TEM, a covert and illegal intelligence agency within the gendarmerie, related the assassination of former JI.TEM commander Cem Ersever, killed in November 1993, to Ergenekon.
Documents seized in the investigation have also revealed that the group planned a bomb attack in I.stanbul's Taksim Square to trigger a chaotic environment that would eventually lead to military intervention. It is also alleged that those detained were involved in provocation and agitation during the Gazi incidents of 1995, when tens of people died in clashes with the police in demonstrations after an attack at an Alevi coffeehouse in the neighborhood.
Moreover, documents found at the nationalist Workers' Party headquarters also showed that the MIT intelligence agency had paid in the 1980s neo-nationalist militants, headed by Grey Wolves member Abdullah Catli, to carry out assassinations against ASALA and PKK members, as well as the bombing of the Armenian genocide memorial in Alfortville, Paris, on May 3, 1984.
Another document, named "Turkish Woman Master Plan," accounts for a plan to redefine women's role in Turkish society. The document was kept as a piece of evidence of Ergenekon's social engineering plans.
Republican Work Group
Taraf daily reported on 7 June 2008 the existence of a group set up in 2002 called the Republican Work Group (Cumhuriyet Çal?s,ma Grubu, CÇG), which was set up within the Turkish Gendarmerie following the election of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the November 2002 elections. The new group, established by Eruygur, has been involved in activities to influence politics and the social atmosphere in Turkey. Eruygur was appointed gendarmerie commander in 2002, the year the AKP entered office.
The CÇG's goal was allegedly to overthrow the government -- perceived by the secular establishment as an islamist threat to the secular order of the nation -- utilizing the judiciary and academics as well as other segments of society.
Taraf cited its source as an unnamed military officer who provided a CD on which information about the CÇG was stored in slide shows and text documents. The daily continued its report on June 8, noting that university rectors and civil society groups were among those working in cooperation with the CÇG. According to information on the CD, the CÇG has no legal standing and is not shown as being a part of the military's official organizational structure.
The CÇG has allegedly initiated a number of activities, reports and events since early 2003. It has blacklisted a multitude of individuals, agencies, schools, civil society groups, business owners and public agencies and their employees for their religious affiliations, Taraf said.
Alleged Ergenekon-PKK link
According to articles in the government-friendly Zaman, there are links between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the alleged Ergenekon network.
They quoted a senior intelligence office, Bülent Orakog(lu, as having said that the PKK, Dev Sol, Hezbollah, and Hizb ut-Tahrir are artificial organizations set up by the network, and that Abdullah Öcalan himself is an Ergenekon member. Zaman also writes that the former PKK leader, S,emdin Sak?k, said in his testimony that the Ergenekon network was in close contact with the group and even co-operated with it on several occasions. According to Sak?k, he was brought to Turkey by a group of men led by Mahmut Y?ld?r?m, also known as Yes,il (Green)—a mafia leader wanted for a series of murders and who had past links to the National Intelligence Organization (MI.T). Yes,il's name had surfaced in the report on the Susurluk scandal.
He said the Ergenekon gang planned to cooperate with a number of terrorist organizations, including the PKK, to achieve its objectives. "This cooperation was realized with Dog(u Perinçek (the leader of the Workers' Party) and several other figures. Cemil Bay?k (a senior PKK leader) was also among these figures," he remarked.
Those claims, however, have not been verified by any government source. The testimony of Sak?k was never released to the press hence the testimony mentioned above is not an official one. PKK's imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, declared however that he had important information to share with the prosecution, according to Vatan, and Ergenekon prosecutors have asked detail information about his contacts during his stay at the I.mral? prison island.
Öcalan dismissed allegations made by intelligence officer Bülent Orakog(lu concerning himself, but he did say that a group inside the PKK, which he called the Zaza Group, had links with Ergenekon. He said that this group was led by Sait Çürükkaya and tried to seize control of the PKK. He added : "Particularly in the Diyarbak?r-Mus,-Bingöl triangle, they have staged intensive and bloody attacks."
Recently uncovered evidence suggests that the 1993 death of General Es,ref Bitlis, and that of journalist Ug(ur Mumcu may be related to Ergenekon. Both Bitlis and Mumcu were investigating how Jalal Talabani, one of the Kurdish leaders of northern Iraq and, as of 2008, president of Iraq, came into possession of 100,000 firearms.
Alleged Ergenekon-Hizb-ut Tahrir links
Lieutenant Mehmet Ali Çelebi, detained in the Ergenekon investigations, allegedly had links with the extreme Islamist group Hizb-ut Tahrir. Çelebi was allegedly the key which made possible the arrest of five Hizbt-ut-Tahrir members in September 2008.
Suspects and detainees
86 people were indicted in July 2008, 48 of whom were detained:
Oktay Y?ld?r?m (retired petty officer), Muzaffer Tekin (retired lieutenant), Mahmut Öztürk (retired petty officer), Fikret Emek (retired major), Gazi Güder (retired lieutenant), Zekeriya Öztürk (retired major), Mehmet Demirtas, (landlord of the warehouse for arms and ammunition), Muzaffer S,enocak, Ali Kutlu, Ayd?n Yüksek, Bekir Öztürk (President of the Kuvay? Milliye Derneg(i), Nusret Senem (Secretary General of the Workers' Party), I.smail Y?ld?z, Ergün Poyraz (author), Asuman Özdemir, Mete Yalazangil, Muhammet Yüce (retired sergeant), Kahraman S,ahin, Erol Ölmez, Erkut Ersoy, Veli Küçük (retired general), Fikri Karadag( (retired colonel), Kemal Kerinçsiz (attorney-at-law), Sami Hos,tan (Susurluk scandal convict), Hüseyin Görüm (President of the Kuvay-i Milliye Organisation), Og(uz Alpaslan Abdülkadir, Hüseyin Gazi Og(uz (President of the Branch of Kuvay-i Milliye Society), Sevgi Erenerol (Spokesperson of the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate), Abdullah Arapog(lu, Hikmet Çiçek, Ümit Og(uztan, Vatan Bölükbas,?, Ümit Say?n (associate professor at Istanbul University), Emin Gürses (associate professor at Sakarya University), Orhan Tunç (writer and retired lecturer from Bal?kesir University), Hayrettin Ertekin (jeweller), Vedat Yenerer (journalist), Muammer Karabulut (chairman of the Ayasofya Association and of the Father Christmas Peace Council; spokesman of the National Force Platform), Abdulmuttalip Tongar, Selim Akkurt, Dog(u Perinçek (President of the Workers' Party), Ferit Ilsever (General Manager of Ulusal TV Channel), Adnan Akf?rat (journalist), Serhan Bolluk (General Manager of Ayd?nl?k newspaper), Hayati Özcan (Representative of the Ulusal TV Channel in Izmir), Behiç Gürcihan (owner of the Aç?k I.stihbarat Web site), Rasim Görüm, Murat Çag(lar, Barbaros Hayrettin Alt?ntas,, Sinan Aygün (President of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce), Atilla Ug(ur (retired major), Birol Bas,aran (President of the Kad?köy branch of the Atatürkçü Düs,ünce Society), Kemal Ayd?n, I.brahim Özcan, Durmus, Ali Özog(lu, Osman Gürbüz, Hurs,it Tolon (retired full general), S,ener Eruygur (retired full general; conditionally released after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage).
The eighth wave of detainments took place in September, producing 11 detainees and 19 suspects, including Tuncay Özkan (journalist, former owner of Kanal Türk TV station, and leader of the anti-Islamist "How many are we?" movement), Duygu Dikmenog(lu (television anchor), Emcet Olcaytu (legal adviser), Tuncay Mollaveyisog(lu (Kanalturk employee), Evrim Baykara (NGO member), Adnan Bulut (television executive), Gürbüz Çapan (former mayor of I.stanbul's Esenyurt district and shareholder of Cumhuriyet), Tanju Güvendiren (former member of the Military Supreme Court of Appeals, who served in the now defunct State Security Courts (DGM) and issued the order to arrest former Police Intelligence Department Chief Hanefi Avc?, who was investigating the Susurluk scandal), Mesut Özcan (cardiologist), Mahir Akkar (civil servant), Hasan K?l?çarslan (retired policeman), Serdar Saçan (police chief), S,afak Akbas, (forensicist), Y?ld?ray Bas,aran (forensicist), Mustafa Tavs,an (forensicist).
Kuddusi Okk?r, detained for allegedly being the financial supplier of the Ergenekon network, died from cancer only a few days after he was released. According to his wife, Sabriye Okk?r, he was in stable condition prior to his arrest on 23 June 2007. She claims that the authorities have done nothing to save her husband's life and filed a complaint to the Ministry of Justice. Shortly after that the ministry opened an investigation to determine the accuracy of those claims.
Most convicts may face at least ten years in prison; the alleged ringleaders, Dog(u Perinçek, Mehmet Fikri Karadag(, Veli Küçük, I.lhan Selçuk and Muzaffer Tekin may be imprisoned for life, if convicted.
Many people have criticized the manner in which the Ergenekon investigation is being conducted, citing in particular the length of the indictment, wiretapping in breach of privacy laws, and political motivations. The media's coverage of the investigation has also been criticized—for releasing misinformation.
Bekir Coskun, of the daily Hürriyet, claims that the aim of the Ergenekon investigation is to create public fear and an organization capable of carrying out the alleged crimes is not very plausible. Several observers, including opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal, have pointed out that the closure case against the AKP and the Ergenekon probe coincided with one another. However, the chronology surrounding the two events would seem to suggest otherwise as the AKP closure case was started on March 14, 2008, whereas the bombs in Ümraniye which exposed the network exploded nine months earlier, on June 13, 2007. Opposition DSP leader Zeki Sezer said that the AKP was building an "empire of fear". Ankara University's Bask?n Oran sees such reactions as indicative of the left's inability to accurately assess the situation, and says that the state is simply purging itself of undemocratic elements. Former Minister of Culture and member of the Susurluk commission, Fikri Sag(lar, said that Ergenekon is a continuation of Susurluk. He added that the network lacked popular support.
The editor-in-chief of the Aks,am daily, Serdar Turgut, lamented that "Those who killed, those who were killed, and us, who tried to build a set of ideas to get our country out of chaos. It turns out that we lived a wasted life. It turns out we were all puppets."
Many Turkish analysts have criticized the declared volume of this case, saying that this long an indictment is unprecedented and besides putting an unmanageable burden on the court it would also jeopardize the chances of reaching a just resolution of this case. Some analysts have reminded that the indictment in the Nuremberg Trials—"the mother of all cases"—was less than 70 pages long.
Former US Ambassador to Turkey, Mark Parris said that one of the most important actors in the current crisis in Turkey are the unknown third forces behind the "Ergenekon" probe that may be acting on behalf of the prime minister, or that the prime minister may or may not know about. The alleged unknown forces, organized in the Police Intelligence department and has prosecutors, seem to be united against the front that want to topple Erdogan and are determined to stop them.
In August 2008, 300 intellectuals from Turkey declared their support for the investigation and called upon all civil and military institutions to deepen the investigation in order to reveal the rest of the people tied to Ergenekon.
Mentioning the Italian Mani pulite case as a precedent, an article in the Turkish Daily News said that the wiretaps may have been obtained in breach of privacy laws. Other sources have voiced similar concerns.
In September 2008, suspects Muzaffer Tekin, Ergün Poyraz, Kemal Kerinçsiz, Dog(u Perinçek and Colonel Erdal Sar?zeybek filed a criminal report against the prosecutors, citing "conducting a biased investigation, gross misconduct and exercises not fit to a prosecutor." The Minister of Justice, Mehmet Ali Sahin, rejected the inquiry, having found no wrongdoing.