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Cablegate: Umraniye Round-Up Targets Deep State

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISTANBUL 000051

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY - CORRECTING PARAGRAPH NUMBERS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2028
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU
SUBJECT: UMRANIYE ROUND-UP TARGETS DEEP STATE

REF: A. 06 ANKARA 1442
B. 06 ANKARA 3772

ISTANBUL 00000051 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: Consul General Sharon A. Wiener
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. The January 22 police round-up of scores of
people in Istanbul and other cities, related to the discovery
of a weapons cache in Istanbul's Umraniye district last June,
may be a battle in the war to fight the "deep state" in
Turkey. The "deep state" is a vague, ill-defined network of
like-minded people (including former military personnel and
government officials) with ties to Turkey's
ultra-nationalists that purports to provide an "alternative"
to state power. Allegedly, this extra-legal grouping works
to influence and deliver public support behind actions by
real state actors, often the military. Some, such as former
Prime Minister and President Suleyman Demirel, voice support
for this power center. Current PM Erdogan apparently opposes
it and is looking for ways to subvert if not destroy it.
There is speculation the contemporary deep state has overlap
affiliation with popularly termed Operation Gladio, a Cold
War "stay behind" network organized to resist possible Soviet
occupation. Successful prosecution of a deep state network
would strike a blow against nationalist impunity and
demonstrate a strong commitment to rule of law. Despite
apparent support for this investigation at the highest levels
of the political leadership, prosecution can only be
successful with the cooperation of Turkey's arch-nationalist
judiciary. End summary.

UMRANIYE RAIDS
--------------

2. (C) In pre-dawn raids on the morning of Tuesday, January
22, police in Istanbul and at least four other cities took
suspects into custody under suspicion of belonging to what
Istanbul prosecutor Zekeriya Oz labeled a terrorist
organization. Press report police monitored Ergenekon
(ultra-nationalist club) members, actions and telephone
conversations for 8 months as part of an investigation of a
stockpile of explosives and ammunition found June 12, 2007,
in Umraniye, a middle class district on the Asian side of
Istanbul. Istanbul-based TESEV Foreign Policy Director
Mensur Akgun believes there is an Ergenekon link to
clandestine "stay behind" networks (popularly referred to as
Operation Gladio after the Italian version) set up in NATO
countries to resist potential Soviet occupation. Akgun says
Ergenekon is part of the "Deep State" apparatus in Turkey and
believes Prime Minister Erdogan forced the military to
acquiesce to police exposure and prosecution of the group.

3. (U) According to police, the Istanbul raids were part of
an organized counterterrorism effort carried out in Istanbul,
Adana, Izmir, Duzce, and Malatya. Thus far, 60 suspects have
been detained from nationalist groups called Ergenekon,
Atabeyler, Sauna, and Umraniye. During initial raids in
June/July 2007, police discovered a hit list including
pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) deputies Ahmet
Turk and Sebahat Tuncel, Diyarbakir mayor Osman Baydemir,
former MP Leyla Zana, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, and Zaman
daily journalist Fehmi Koru. DTP politicians on the list
reportedly refused a 24-hour police guard offered them. Also
uncovered in the raid were diagrams and action plans said to
lay out the foundations for a coup planned for 2009. Press
speculation implicates Ergenekon in virtually every killing
with political significance over the past several years,
including the Hrant Dink murder, the 2006 Council of State
(Danistay) shooting which killed one judge, the bombing of
the Cumhuriyet newspaper building in Istanbul, and the 2006
murder of an Italian priest, among others. Prior to the
raids on January 22, 15 people had been arrested in
connection with the Umraniye weapons cache. They were
charged with establishing and running an armed terrorist
organization, conspiring to encourage military members to
disobey orders, acquiring information on state security, and
being in possession of explosives.

A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF A COMPLICATED SUBJECT
--------------------------------------------

4. (C) Referring to the antecedents of Ergenekon, Mensur
Akgun says nationalist elements, traceable to Ottoman days,
were responsible for incidents including the Istanbul riots
of September 6-7, 1955, targeting the Greek minority.
Then-PM Bulent Ecevit complained in 1974 of a "counter
guerrilla" force operating outside the Turkish military chain
of command. Akgun also claimed former PM Tansu Ciller and
former President Suleyman Demirel requested and received NSC

ISTANBUL 00000051 002.2 OF 003


approval for a "deep state" mechanism in the 1990s. Forces
established in the 1950s as sleeper agents, once directed by
the intelligence community, have come to feel immune from
prosecution and are no longer controllable, Akgun claimed.
Ergenekon has overlap with this group. Akgun also professed
that deep state elements have taken part in efforts to
eliminate the PKK, citing the Semdinli incident. The
November 9, 2005, bombing of a bookstore in Semdinli killed
one and injured several in Turkey's southeastern province of
Hakkari. Two suspects were found to
be members of the security forces. Efforts by Prosecutor
Ferhat Sarikaya to pinpoint ultimate responsibility for the
attack resulted in his being fired by the High Council of
Judges and Prosecutors (Ref A).

5. (C) Akgun posits arrests on January 22 were facilitated
by followers of Fethullah Gulen (once a deep state target)
who have established themselves in the regular police and
police intelligence cadres. Akgun cited the Prime Minister's
comment, "the state is working," as evidence he had forced
agreement with Turkey's military to make the Umraniye
investigations public. Those found guilty would be
prosecuted, said Akun. Mindful of truncated investigations
into Sedinli, Susurluk (Ref B) and other scandals, Akgun
made an appeal for the USG to reveal any informaton it has
that would corroborate evidence of wrongdoing by the
suspects.

6. (C) The judiciary, Akgun said, could prove a stumbling
block to justice. He lamented that though not necessarily
corrupt, Turkey's judiciary had large numbers of "illiberal"
judges, more focused on protecting the state from the
individual than in promoting individual rights, and who
firmly believe any means should be used to protect the state.
Insofar as the deep state's purported intentions are to
protect the state (as that group defines it), they may be
able to find common cause with some in the legal system who
could shield them from the full brunt of prosecution. Akgun
expects the accused would mount a strong defense but added
that there are now many factors at work to thwart the
extra-legal group. Akgun -- and many respected media
commentators -- said success would have far-reaching,
positive implications for the rule of law and democracy in
Turkey.

A ROGUE'S GALLERY FRAMES THE PLOT
---------------------------------

7. (U) Central to the cast of characters detained in the
Umraniye raids is retired Major General Veli Kuck, reputed
to be a leader in the Ergenekon organzation. Following the
1996 Susurluk incident, the Office of the Chief of the
General Staff reportedly blocked charges from being filed
against Kucuk (then active duty) and he refused to give a
deposition to the parliamentary investigation. Kucuk sued
Erdal Dogan (attorney for the Dink family) after Dogan told
prosecutors that Kucuk could be involved in Dink,s murder.
Kucuk attended hearings for Dink,s Article 301 case, filed
by ultra-nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerencsiz who was also
detained on January 22. Kerencsiz filed 301 cases against
Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak as well.

8. (U) Also among the detained is Oktay Yildirim, a retired
noncommissioned officer reputed to have made threatening
phone calls to Prosecutor Zekeriya Oz. Two people arrested
during the June 2007 raid on the house in Umraniye indicated
Yildirim provided the weapons. Yildirim claims he found the
weapons at a dump behind a military barracks in Hasdal on
Istanbul's European side.

DEMIREL ON THE DEEP STATE
-------------------------

9. (U) Interviewed on CNN-Turk on April 17, 2005, former
President Demirel said, "The deep state is the state itself.
It is the military. The military that established the state
always fears the collapse of the state. The people sometimes
misuse the rights provided.... The deep state is not active
as long as the state is not brought to the verge of collapse.
They are not a separate state, but when they intervene in
the administration of the state, they become the deep state."

10. (C) Comment. The deep state is shady, vague and
ill-defined. Events like the 1955 Istanbul riots, Susurluk
and Semdinli, the Dink 301 trial and subsequent
assassinations have long haunted public life. Weak rule of
law and the impunity with which privileged operators have
long been able to subvert Turkey's legal system have created
an environment in which rumors of the deep state's existence

ISTANBUL 00000051 003.2 OF 003


have been enough to give the concept a life of its own. Fear
of the deep state's omnipotence combined with an unshakable
belief that it exists, imparts much of its power. If Akgun's
take is correct, PM Erdogan has the evidence he needs to
expose and close down or seriously damage a widely rumored
"deep state" apparatus that works outside the rule of law,
often in the service of ultra-nationalist causes. However,
prosecution will only be successful with the cooperation of
Turkey's deeply conservative judiciary. That will be the
test; passing it will have positive implications for
strengthening and extending democracy and rule of law in
Turkey. End comment.
WIENER

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