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Cablegate: Turkey: Government Counterstroke Against Deep

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAK #1194/01 1831417
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 011417Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6711
INFO RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 4411
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5// PRIORITY
RHMCSUU/SACEUR POLAD SHAPE BE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 6532

S E C R E T ANKARA 001194

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2023
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: GOVERNMENT COUNTERSTROKE AGAINST DEEP
STATE -- FORMER GENERALS ARRESTED

REF: A. ANKARA 1170
B. ANKARA 1167
C. ANKARA 680
D. ANKARA 313

Classified By: Pol-Mil Counselor Carl Siebentritt, reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: On the morning of July 1, Turkish police
arrested up to 24 individuals associated with the so-called
"Ergenekon gang," under investigation for conspiring to
topple the government. Among those arrested are two retired
four-star Army generals: Hursit Tolon, former First Army
Commander, and Sener Eruygur, former Army Chief of Staff,
later Jandarma Commander, and current president of the
Ataturkist Thought Association. These are the most senior
retired officers arrested for any reason in recent memory and
bring to 73 the number detained since January in the
Ergenekon investigation. In a web site posting prior to the
arrests, the Turkish General Staff (TGS) strongly denied
persistent press reports of a military conspiracy to
undermine the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The arrests come on the day the Chief Prosecutor is
presenting oral arguments in the AKP closure case before the
Constitutional Court. They represent a serious escalation in
the battle between the government and the "deep state" being
waged through the judiciary and will significantly increase
political tensions as the AKP closure case heads towards a
climax. The true breadth of the Ergenekon conspiracy will
only become apparent as indictments are unveiled. End
summary.

Ergenekon Arrests Include Senior Retired Generals
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (U) As many as 24 persons were arrested July 1 in Ankara
and Istanbul in connection with the on-going "Ergenekon"
investigation into anti-government activities. Among the
detainees were Hursit Tolon, former First Army Commander, and
Sener Eruygur, former Army Chief of Staff, later Jandarma
Commander, and current president of the Kemalist Ataturkist
Thought Association. The president of the Ankara Chamber of
Commerce, Sinan Aygun, and chief editor of the daily
Tercuman, Ufuk Buyukcelebi were also reported detained, as
was Cumhuriyet's Ankara bureau chief Mustafa Balbay. In an
unusual step, the two retired generals were picked up at
their residences on a military-controlled compound.
According to press reports, police searched the offices of
the Ataturkist Thought Association, the Ankara Chamber of
Commerce, and the Cumhuriyet newspaper's Ankara bureau on the
morning of July 1 and conducted similar searches in Istanbul
on the orders of the Istanbul prosecutor. Today's arrests
are in addition to up to 49 other persons detained in
relation to Ergenekon since late 2007.

3. (C) Tolon and Eruygur are the most senior military
officers to have been detained in recent memory. Eruygur was
implicated as a coup plotter in the "secret diaries"
allegedly written by former Naval Forces Commander Admiral
Ornek and published by the newspaper Nokta in the spring of
2007 (ref a). According to Nokta's excerpts from the diary,
Eruygur was initially involved in planning a coup along with
the then commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, but the
plan was opposed by CHOD Hilmi Ozkok. Nokta was shut down
after publishing the story. Eruygur's Ataturkist Thought
Association was the key organizing force behind a series of
massive public nationalist, secular rallies around the
country in the spring of 2007 in the failed effort to
engender popular opposition to the election of Abdullah Gul
as president.

4. (C) Former TGS lawyer and retired colonel Sadi Cayci, now
part of the secularist ASAM think tank in Ankara, told us
that the police must have had warrants to make the arrests
and search the military residences, and that subsequent
indictments will shed more light on the strength of the
government's case against the two generals and the others.
Cayci characterized the detentions as a show of determination
by the government that would certainly exacerbate the
tensions between the "Islamists and the patriots." He noted
that, if the alleged crimes were committed after their
military service, Tolon and Eruygur would be tried in a
civilian court.

5. (S) Previewing the arrests, a senior Turkish National
Police (TNP) contact told Embassy LEGATT last week in the
context of a discussion of the Paksut-Basbug meeting
controversy (ref b) that the TNP was going to strike back by
making Ergenekon arrests within the next few days.

6. (U) Initial reactions include a denunciation of the
arrests as "fascism" and political intimidation by the
opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Cumhuriyet's
Ankara editor complained that earlier Ergenekon suspects have
been detained for up to ten months without charge.
Implicitly referring to the secularist defense of judicial
privilege in the closure case against the AKP, AKP Vice Chair
Dengir Mir Firat stated that the will of the judiciary should
be respected. AKP Diyarbakir MP Abdurahman Kurt denied a
link between the arrests and the AKP closure case, but
emphasized Ergenekon and the recent arrests are significant
because "coup plotters" are being prosecuted for the first
time. He noted previous "transformation" efforts in Turkish
history, such as during President Menderes' term in the
1950's, provoked a reaction from establishment forces that
led to a coup. "The public won't stand for that any more,"
Kurt claimed. AKP is not challenging the establishment with
these arrests; it is pursuing democracy, Kurt said. "Things
won't happen overnight but today's developments are important
because coup plotters are being held accountable for the
first time."

7. (C) Meanwhile, there is little information available on
the substance of the charges likely to be made against the
Ergenekon arrestees. Media reports over the past months have
variously linked Ergenekon suspects to the murder of
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the attack on the
Danistay judges in May 2006, a bombing aimed at the
Cumhuriyet daily, and the Article 301 ("insulting
Turkishness") cases against Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and
Elif Safak. A gag order imposed by an Istanbul court in
March 2008 has restricted the amount of reliable public
information available as the government's investigation has
proceeded.

Military Warns Against Slander Campaign
---------------------------------------

8. (U) In a seven-paragraph statement posted on its web site
on June 28, before the arrests, (Embassy translation
forwarded separately to EUR/SE), the TGS denied persistent
press reporting that it had developed a comprehensive public
disinformation plan to undermine the governing AKP. Calling
the charges a "slander campaign" which has been conducted for
an extended time by the media, the TGS predicts that
"multidimensional and systematic activities" aimed against
the Armed Forces would continue in the future. It ominously
warns that such activities are being closely monitored. The
statement denies the existence of an antigovernment
"Information Support Plan," and dismisses the notion that
such a document could have been created and published without
the knowledge and approval of senior officers. Commentators
have noted that many of the actions laid out in the plan,
allegedly leaked to the press by military sources, have
indeed occurred over the past months.

Comment
-------

9. (C) The Ergenekon arrests, while expected since the
investigation into the role of former military and prominent
civilian figures began in early 2008 (ref c), have occurred
the same day that the Chief Prosecutor is presenting oral
arguments in the AKP closure case. Few here see this as a
coincidence. The move represents a serious escalation in the
battle between the government and the "deep state" being
waged via judicial proxies. The government is now under
pressure to demonstrate the strength of the criminal cases
against the Ergenkon plotters as formal indictments are
expected to be made public in the coming days.

10. (C) The arrests will significantly increase political
tensions here as the AKP closure case plays out over the
coming weeks. While the arrest of prominent journalists
looks like muzzling of the press, the Tercuman chief editor
and Cumhuriyet Ankara bureau chief are widely regarded as
mouthpieces for the alleged military and Kemalist plotters.
Many of those arrested are virulently anti-AKP and may well
be engaged in anti-government activities, but how guilty they
are or complicit in a sustained and serious conspiracy
against the government will only come clear as the
indictments are made public.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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