Monday, February 2, 2009

Ergenekon - mother of all Turkish coups?

First published in January 17 2009 Armenian Reporter.

Coup investigation dominates Turkish politics
Conspiracy targeting Armenians, others alleged
by Emil Sanamyan

A rendering of Turks' departure from Ergenekon, with a she-wolf pointing the way.

Washington, - Archbishop Mesrop Mutafyan, the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, and other Turkish-Armenian leaders were targeted for assassination by ultranationalist conspirators aiming to overthrow Turkey's Islamist-leaning government, according to government sources cited in Zaman newspaper on January 13.

Police investigators claim that conspirators established an undercover group called Ergenekon, which included members of the military and prominent media and political figures, dozens of whom were arrested and are currently on trial on charges stemming from an alleged coup plot. The group is named after the mythical place in the Altay Mountains of present-day Russia, to which Turks trace their origins.

Some of the defendants are accused of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, former Turkish Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, and writer Orhan Pamuk.

Several Ergenekon figures were linked to threats against Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink, who was assassinated two years ago. Reports in mid-2007 suggested religious leaders of the Armenian, Greek, and Jewish communities were among those targeted; in the same period there were several attacks targeting Christians in Turkey.

An additional 38 individuals were detained on January 7 in connection with the Ergenekon case. They include retired General Tuncer Kilinc, former head of the National Security Council, and nine mid-level active-duty officers.

Mr. Kilinc captured foreign media attention when he suggested several years ago that Turkey should forge a closer alliance with Russia and Iran and distance itself from the West.

The Turkish military command issued a statement expressing "concern" over the arrests, in which police seized weapons, ammunition, and explosives.

Also being investigated is a former chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court. The prosecutor in 2007 had worked to prevent Mr. Erdogan from being elected president; the impasse led to an early election, in which Mr. Erdogan's party, AKP, only strengthened its control over parliament and the government.

Government critics see the Ergenekon investigation as a tit-for-tat between AKP and its ultranationalist opposition, which last year sought to legally banish Mr. Erdogan and AKP from power.

The parliamentary opposition is divided on the issue. The Republican People's Party (CHP) condemned the investigation as an Islamist plot aiming to undermine Turkish secularism, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has given it conditional support.

“Apology” campaigners under investigation

Meantime, Turkish intellectuals who last month launched an online petition apologizing to Armenians for Turkey's attitude toward the Armenian Genocide are under government investigation, the Anatolia news agency reported on January 9.

The probe underway could result in criminal proceedings against petition organizers on charges of "insulting the Turkish nation." In line with last year's amendments to the criminal code, state prosecutors would need the government's approval to open a criminal case.

The report of the investigation came shortly after President Abdullah Gül appeared to have changed tack on the petition, joining other officials in criticizing it.

In an interview with ATV and Zaman newspaper published on January 2, Mr. Gül suggested that debates caused by the petition could interfere with efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey. Mr. Gül had been assailed by opponents for initially welcoming the petition, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials had quickly condemned.

As of January 14, the petition at (We Are Sorry) had gathered nearly 27,000 names of individual Turks despite apparent hacker attacks.

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