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Confusion in Turkey: Ergenekon and the "Military Coup"

EA Correspondent Aysegul Er reports:

Since 20 October 2008, the Turkey Government has been occupied with Ergenekon, a neo-nationalist group accused of plotting against the State.

It all started with 27 hand bombs, TNT moulds, and detonators found in a house on 12 June 2007. Since then, evidence from  wiretappings, weapons taken from excavations, and purported assassination plans allegedly show  a “grand project” pursued by the “deep state”. According to an indictment which is now more than 2500 pages, arrested politicians, journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, and generals formed a “terrorist” organization to create chaos weakening the ruling Justice and Development Party and justifying a military coup.

Retired Gendarme Brigadier General Veli Kucuk, retired Gendarme General Sener Eruygur, retired General of the 1st Army Commandership located in the Western Turkey Hursit Tolon, former Chancellor of the University of Istanbul Kemal Alemdaroglu, Vice President of the Labor Party Dogu Perincek, columnist Ilhan Selcuk, Ankara Chamber of Commerce Sinan Aygun, retired Brigadier General and former Head of Gendarme Intelligence Centre Levent Ersoz and even former AKP MPs Turhan Comez and Emin Sirin are among the more than 150 people who have been accused of membership in a “terrorist” organization.

Last Friday, in the 137th hearing of the Ergenekon investigation, 20 prisoners including the leader of the Labor Party, Doğu Perinçek, and retired Gendarme Brigadier General Veli Küçük made their defenses against the claims. As in the other 136 hearings, no verdict was released.

Meanwhile, the “Cage Plan”, in which weapons found in Istanbul were to be used against minorities to isolate the government in the eyes of international community, emerged. Another plan called “Balyoz” (Sledge-Hammer), targeting serving generals, occupied the front pages of newspapers last month.

According to so-called “coup diaries,” retired Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces Admiral Ozden Ornek, retired Turkish Air Force General Ibrahim Firtina, retired Brigadier General Engin Alan, retired generals of the 1st Army Commandership Cetin Dogan and Ergin Saygun, and more than 20 generals and brigadier generals can be added to the list of plotters. In a step-by-step coup, Ergenekon would pursue “deep state” manipulations such as hitting Turkish jets over the Aegean Sea and bombing two mosques.

Doğan’s response to the accusations was that hundreds of pages of documents and CDs were ordinary scenarios to be used in training the army officers. On Friday all accused were released, except Çetin Doğan and Engin Alan. (Ironically, it was Engin Alan who directed the operation of bringing the head of terrorist/separatist Kurdish movement PKK, Abdullah Ocalan from Kenya to Ankara.)

More importantly, the Chief of Staff, Ilker Basbug responded harshly to the court's accusations, although he did not specifically mention the government. He called all claims concerning any plans related with hitting a war plane or bombing mosques as “unjustness.” He said: “How can you imagine an army bombing mosques who say ‘Allah Allah’ while going to a war?”

The case has now reached the eyes of the international press. On 1 March, Daniel Steinvorth from Der Spiegel asks: “Is Erdogan Strong Enough to Take on the Generals?” He emphasized the power struggle between the government and the army and asks whether Turkey is going through a new period in which we could find a “more democratic” Ankara if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can cope with the opposition of the army.

In Turkey, however, people are still confused. Some believe that this is the most significant case  since the foundation of the republic and are hopeful of that “more democratic” Turkey. Some, on the other hand, fear this case could lead to  chaos if not to an authoritarian government.

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Reader Comments (8)

Thank you for reporting on this. I had no idea we're talking about so many suspects and alleged activities since 2007-08. On the other hand, this group's supposed plans are so extreme - how seriously do you take Ergenekon and the allegations against those accused of being members and plotting a coup?

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine


Thank you for your great concern over the issue and your kind words. Thanks to Aysegul Er, it is a satisfactory entry regarding what is going on in Turkey. My personal opinion is that; although these cases and trials are curbing the pro-coup mindset and its social institutions anchored in 1930's Turkey (which are "positive" signs for a more "democratic" country); the means applied during this process such as the so called "legal" wiretappings are themselves the violations of freedom and human rights. Besides, when you consider the ones who have been taken into custody so far, they represent the very same political ground.

My fear is that, upon the space left from the army's political power, no democratic values would be placed yet a more strong AKP and a weaker opposition would appear, as a result of which the country would be unfortunately dragged into to a chaos. That is why I said the means applied during this process are worrisome. Indeed, throughout this dangerous process, it won't be surprising to see people accused of forming a "terrorist" organization merely because of their opposition to the government.

However, I also do believe that the accusations directed to pro-coup minded people can be true. Turkey has experienced and suffered from such "deep state concerns." Imagine a country where the very strong nationalist-secular social institutions teach and, in return fed by its citizens, that "if the matter is the state itself, the rest is just a matter of details." After all, it was the very same mentality that threw a bomb to the house where Ataturk was born in Theselanoki in Greece in 1955. The critical point here is that the head of the secret service that ran this operation was a Major General who was promoted to become a Lieutenant Geneal due to his "success." The aim of this operation was to create the most suitable atmosphere to target minorities (especially Greeks) in order to receive support for the Cyprus case.

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAli Yenidunya

Ali -

Is your sense/information say that the majority of the people support the goal of the "coup", as I understand, to preserve a non secular government versus a Erdogan government which appears to move towards a "more" secular government? Given the lack of verdicts, is this mearly a publicity show for the current governement?

I have just recently began to follow this so my apologies for the many questions.


March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBijan


I cannot say the majority because I do not believe that majority of the population is able to read the political scene given the lack of objective media sources and economic concerns.

I can clearly say that the Erdogan's cabinet is not an Islam-driven government. Ironically, unlike their forefathers' "religious" standing (such as the 1925 rioting), the AKP government is acting on liberal values, both in terms of infrastructure and superstructure. Unprecedented level of privatization and again the very same level of democratic laws & proposals have come from this government. Therefore, for secularists and nationalists, this is giving damage to army and the state itself.

We have seen the so-called "majority" complaining about AKP during recent elections. After bags of coal and food given to people with the trucks of governerships, votes returned to Erdogan. That is why I do not believe in those calls of "majority." These majorities can become minorities overnight in Turkey.

As for the lack of verdicts, it is mainly because of the case's 2500-page indictment and its ongoing series of arrests and custodies. On the other hand, yes, the government can use this as a stick against its opposition. People are afraid of criticizing the government these days.

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAli Yenidunya

Thanks Ali.

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBijan

You are more than welcome Bijan.

March 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAli Yenidunya


I second everyone on the great article. It was a very good non biased look at the situation. Everyone knows the military has been coup happy in the past. Lets hope it doesn't happen again.


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