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Cablegate: Ergenekon Indictment Still Murky but Process Alone

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PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #1337/01 2071342
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251342Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6952
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 1288
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
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RHMFISS/39ABG CP INCIRLIK AB TU
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RHMFISS/425ABG IZMIR TU//CC//
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 001337

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINS PREL TU
SUBJECT: ERGENEKON INDICTMENT STILL MURKY BUT PROCESS ALONE
IS SIGNIFICANT

REF: A. ISTANBUL 380
B. ANKARA 1217
C. 07 ANKARA 1112
D. ANKARA 502
E. ANKARA 213

Classified By: Ambassador Ross Wilson for reasons 1.4(b,d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. Istanbul's Heavy Penal Court decided July
25 to accept the indictment filed in the Ergenekon case and
proceed to prosecution (ref A). The 2,500 page indictment
has clarified little about the case. Some Turks see the
indictment as a courageous step toward bringing Turkey's
state and society under the rule of law, purging corrupt
elements and laying the groundwork for greater public
accountability. Others see a politically manipulated
investigation targeting opponents of the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP) and designed to protect AKP from
closure (ref B). An additional 26 suspects were detained
July 23. Whatever the outcome, the unprecedented arrest of
senior retired military officers accused of serious crimes
against the government -- and the military's acquiescence --
may play an important role in deterring future coup plotters
and weaken the iron grip of traditional "Deep State" elites
on Turkey's state institutions. END SUMMARY.

Initial Reactions: Hope and Dismissiveness
------------------------------------------
2. (C) The media's portrayal of the Ergenekon case as a
Kemalists-versus-AKP battle distracts from the
investigation's significance as a judicial effort to tackle
one of Turkey's untouchable subjects by exposing an alleged
crime network with military links. Some liberal contacts
hope the case represents a "Clean Hands" process that will
hold the traditional state elites accountable for their
conduct. Former Ozal-era State Minister Hasan Celal Guzel
calls Ergenekon the most important case in the Republic's
history because the judiciary is questioning whether the
military may act with the impunity it has enjoyed in the
past. Ankara University professor Baskin Oran argues that
for the first time, people may be tried for planning a coup
and the implicit immunity of the generals may be lifted.

3. (SBU) Arrayed against the prosecutor's efforts is a
variety of status quo interests, many unwilling to concede
that "patriotic" retired generals may have gone too far.
Eray Akdag of TUSIAD (Turkish Businessmen's and
Industrialists Association) emphasized to us his doubts about
the substance of the indictment. Other critics focused on
the lack of due process in holding suspects without charge
for extended periods, and ridiculed the twenty "secret"
witnesses cited in support of the allegations and the vague
ties to other unsolved crimes. Some opponents accuse the
prosecutor of redefining "terrorism" to make the Ergenekon
charges fit that crime (ref A). A Republican People's Party
(CHP) statement belittled the indictment, saying the
"mountain gave birth to a mouse." CHP's Atilla Kart accused
the government of interfering in the legal process and using
"politicized law enforcement" (i.e. the Turkish National
Police) against its opponents.

4. (SBU) Despite the heated debate and an additional 26
arrests on July 23, the country remains calm. Ayhan Bilgen,
former chairman of human rights NGO Mazlum-Der, told us he
believes social pressure is necessary to stiffen the resolve
of the judiciary to examine those with powerful state
connections but sees no potential for civilian unrest.
Rallies calling for respect for democracy and a new
constitution drew tens of thousands in Bursa, Samsun and
Malatya; Hak-Is labor President Salim Uslu addressed the
crowd in Bursa, which was allowed to carry only Turkish
flags. Another, organized by anti-coup political parties and
NGOs, is planned for July 26 in Ankara. In response, the
Ataturkist Thought Association (ADD) held an "Ataturk and
Democracy" rally in Kadikoy (Istanbul). ADD Vice Chairman
Professor Sina Aksin calls the Ergenekon case an effort to
pressure Ataturkist people; Turkey Youth Union founding
president Adnan Turkkan claims the case was "patented by the
US." Turkish Academics' Association president contends the

ANKARA 00001337 002 OF 003


indictment's real goal is "to erase Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
from history." Rallies nominally "in support of the
judiciary" touted by ultra-nationalist media figure Tuncay
Ozkan have attracted extremely low turnout; the July 7
kickoff events drew only a few hundred people.

A Chance for Accountability?
----------------------------
5. (C) The case targets what many liberals describe as the
most concrete manifestation of Turkey's "Deep State" in
recent years, and seeks to link the Ergenekon gang to
specific crimes, some going back more than a decade. The
indictment reportedly contains evidence linking Ergenekon to
the 2006 attack on the High Administrative Court (Danistay)
which killed one judge and wounded others, renewing questions
surrounding the convicted shooter, a disgruntled Islamist
lawyer. Former Mayor of Diyarbakir's Sur municipality
Abdullah Demirtas told us the indictment could also shed
light on unsolved incidents such as Susurluk and Semdinli,
which pointed to murky ties between members of the state
establishment and criminals. Both cases evaporated without
serious legal consequences for those allegedly involved.

6. (C) Many hope that legal and public scrutiny of the
Ergenekon crimes will open much-needed opportunities for
greater transparency and democracy. Turkey's recent
economic, social and political changes are shifting the power
balance away from an entrenched elite resistant to change.
The fact the military acquiesced to the arrest of two retired
four-star generals is in itself important. Former MP Nazli
Ilicak cautioned that formal institutional change remains a
necessary step: as long as the military has the duty of
protecting and guarding the Republic, Turkey will not be able
to prevent the next Ergenekon-style interference. Ankara
University Professor Tayfun Altay told us he wishes Turkey
could carry out a more orderly and decent process of
democratization. The Ergenekon precedent could ultimately
raise public demand for greater accountability by the ruling
AKP concerning dubious public financing, sales and tenders,
inappropriate government pressure and questionable enrichment
of party members.

Hurdles Along the Way
---------------------
7. (C) Significant challenges will undercut the prosecutor's
ability to see this case through. The arrests of prominent
individuals show the alleged gang may extend high into elite
institutions. Samil Tayyar, author of "Operation Ergenekon"
and other books on the Deep State, claims there are three top
witnesses in the case whose yet-to-be-revealed involvement
would shock the nation. With charges of terrorism,
incitement to uprising, and political assassination, the
stakes for the accused -- and the judiciary -- are high. The
prosecutor reportedly has received threats and key witnesses
are likely at risk. Tayyar said he too has had death threats
since publishing his Ergenekon book, and now receives police
protection. Professor Baskin Oran worries there will be
disputes over whether military or civilian courts have
jurisdiction; this and other technicalities may cause the
case to drag on for years without a clear-cut result, as in
previous investigations.

8. (C) The biggest obstacle may be inertia. The Ergenekon
case will be tried in a judicial system that views defense of
the Kemalist order as its paramount mission, above and beyond
the written law (refs C-E). Previous bold prosecutors who
have looked too closely into the state's dirty laundry have
found themselves sidelined or disbarred. The Istanbul public
prosecutor's resolve, critical to getting the case this far,
will need to remain strong as the investigation proceeds.
His reportedly "frequent" meetings with Prime Minister
Erdogan have played a role in keeping the case alive, but
have left both the prosecutor and the charges against
Ergenekon open to allegations of political manipulation.

9. (C) By arguing in the indictment that Ergenekon members
disingenuously used Ataturk's Kemalist principles as a guise
for retaining power, the prosecutor is trying to persuade
patriotic Turks the suspects are subversive criminals rather

ANKARA 00001337 003 OF 003


than national heroes. He will need an iron-clad case to make
the charges stick but the case has already had some effect.
A senior AKP journalist predicts that while the evidence may
not support convictions, a clear political signal has been
sent that such anti-democratic behavior is no longer
acceptable. Perhaps this will be the case.

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

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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