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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ANKARA 001202

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EUR/SE, EUR/PD, NEA/PD, DRL
JCS PASS J-5/CDR S. WRIGHT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 2008

In Today's Papers

New Detentions in The Ergenekon Investigation Rock Turkey
All news outlets report 21 suspects were detained yesterday on
charges of membership to a terrorist organization, known as
Ergenekon. The suspects include retired Generals Hursit Tolon and
Sener Eruygur, Cumhuriyet daily's Ankara bureau chief Mustafa
Balbay, and Ankara Chamber of Commerce President Sinan Aygun. In
addition, warrants were issued for the arrests of former AKP
lawmaker Turhan Comez and retired General Levent Ersoz. A total of
seven were detained in Ankara, eleven in Istanbul, two in Antalya,
two in Erzurum, and one in Trabzon. The Ergenekon investigation
began eleven months ago, but an indictment has not been prepared
yet. Islamist-oriented Zaman says the indictment is expected to be
submitted before this weekend. Papers note the prosecutor might
prepare an additional indictment, including the suspects taken into
custody yesterday.

The Ergenekon network is alleged to be an underground organization
comprised of retired military officers, journalists and opposition
politicians who seek to overthrow the government. After hand
grenades, TNT explosives and fuses were seized in a house in
Istanbul's Umraniye district on June 12 last year, forty-five
suspects were detained without being charged with any crime. Since
then, suspects detained in relation to the case include retired
general Veli Kucuk, leftist-nationalist Workers' Party leader Dogu
Perincek, nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, Turkish Orthodox
Patriarchate spokesperson Sevgi Erenerol, former Istanbul University
President Kemal Alemdaroglu, and Cumhuriyet chief editor Ilhan
Selcuk.

Domestic Reactions to 'Ergenekon' Detentions
Prime Minister Erdogan told reporters Tuesday the government expects
the case to be concluded "as soon as possible." In addition, Erdogan
said, "Police executed the decision of the high criminal court. I
think these detentions are a step forward to conclude the
indictment." AKP deputy chair, Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat warned
politicians to stay away from legal processes. "We should not be
involved in the case as politicians; all should respect the
judiciary's independence," Firat was quoted as saying. Main
opposition CHP slammed the detentions, and accused the government of
"creating an empire of fear." CHP leader Deniz Baykal said
Ergenekon was "a campaign to save Prime Minister Erdogan." Baykal
said the detentions were "not likely to be seen in democracies," and
"resembled the crackdowns of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and
Khomeini." The nationalist MHP's leader, Devlet Bahceli, said the
prosecutors should make a satisfactory explanation on the case.
"The PM is moving forward on an inadvertent journey which will
jeopardize democracy, Turkey's parliamentarian regime, and his
party," warned Bahceli. The pro-Kurdish DTP acting chairwoman Emine
Ayna criticized the operation, saying, "The AKP has been conducting
this operation in line with its political program. Carrying out this
operation on the same day as the verbal indictment is given in the
closure case against the AKP has created legitimate question marks
in the public opinion. It is impossible to think the choice of the
date is a coincidence." Former AKP MP Turhan Comez, who is wanted
for charges related to the operation, spoke from London to
mainstream Vatan and called the operation "an attempt to set up an
empire of fear." Yilmaz Ates, Deputy Leader of CHP, said Ergenekon
"seems like a campaign against those who support national unity and
the integration of this country as well as a democratic and secular
republic. Unfortunately the main actors of this campaign are the
government and its supporters. We will pursue this. I hope the
indictment is announced as soon as possible." Zeki Sezer, Leader of
the DSP, pointed out, "This operation took place as the chief
prosecutor delivered his verbal arguments. The public's attention
intentionally was averted. First the owner of Cumhuriyet daily was
detained in a very nasty way. And now, Mr. Mustafa Balbay. Nobody
will benefit from confronting the nation and the judiciary." Tayfun
Icli, DSP Deputy, noted, "The investigation is not being held on

ANKARA 00001202 002 OF 004


June 29, but today, on a day when the top prosecutor of the Court of
Appeals presents his arguments. They harm the principles of
secularism and the social state. Only the principle of the rule of
law remained and now they are harming this by attacking the
judiciary and bringing society head to head with the judiciary. This
is an unacceptable course of conduct."

Press Play of Ergenekon Detentions
In "The Great Intimidation," the leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet
writes on its front page today the Ergenekon operation has
transformed into an operation to "silence dissident voices," adding,
"These events remind one of the September 1980 military coup
period." Mainstream Hurriyet claims the "military General Staff
(TGS) was informed about the detentions," because the TGS must be
notified in order to enter the military lodgings where retired
generals stay. Papers also note yesterday's round-up came after the
recent meeting between PM Erdogan and Land Forces Commander General
Ilker Basbug meeting. In addition, in August the High Military
Council (YAS) convention will decide on the appointments of the new
commanders in the military.

Islamist-oriented media call the developments a lesson in
accountability against those attempting to overthrow the government.
Mainstream media lash out against the arrests as targeting the
opponents of the AKP in a "McCarthy-esque fashion." Liberal Radikal
says the Ergenekon investigation "Finally Catches Some Big Fishes."
Meanwhile, far right Tercuman, whose editor was detained in
connection to the case yesterday, asks "Where Is Turkey Headed?"
Mainstream Vatan points out that the arrests came while the chief
prosecutor was charging the president, the prime minister and the
ruling party with plotting to introduce an Islamic regime in Turkey.
Mainstream Aksam and Hurriyet report "the police were informed of
the arrest warrants and a plan was devised on June 29," but Aksam
speculates, "The actual arrests were delayed until Tuesday so they
could overshadow the chief prosecutor's concluding arguments to
close the AKP." Liberal Radikal notes, "There is a freedom of
expression issue here. The journalists who were arrested were
simply expressing their opinions."

Ibrahim Karagul of Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak calls these
developments, "a major and critical settling of scores." Mustafa
Unal of Islamist-oriented Zaman notes, "Those who are planning coups
should be held accountable because in democracies a coup is a major
crime." Ergun Babahan of mainstream Sabah writes, "Turkey is headed
toward democracy and this is a lesson for future coup plotters."
Tufan Turenc of mainstream Hurriyet writes, "This purge reminds one
of the McCarthy era." Bilal Cetin of mainstream Vatan writes, "The
majority of the public believe the operation was carried out in
order to muzzle the opposition." Can Dundar of mainstream Milliyet
writes, "In response to the closure case, some people were bullying
those who exposed their dirty laundry," and "it's the judiciary that
will suffer from this duel."

Editorial Commentary on Ergenekon Arrests and the AKP Closure Case

Ismet Berkan wrote in liberal-intellectual Radikal: "These recent
detentions look like the final phase of the ongoing Ergenekon
investigation. It is very important that those who are involved in
coup plots are brought to justice. If this case proves a link
between those high level names and a plot to overthrow the
government, for the first time in our modern democratic history,
those responsible for planning a coup will be held accountable."

Haluk Sahin wrote in liberal-intellectual Radikal: "There is a
freedom of expression issue here. There are writers and journalists
among the detainees. These writers and journalists haven't done
anything besides express their views, which were not liked by the
government. Moreover, there is no evidence and no indictment in the
Ergenekon case. However, something is clearly wrong: suspects have
been kept in jail for a year without knowing what they are charged

ANKARA 00001202 003 OF 004


with."

Ali Bayramoglu wrote in Islamist-leaning Yeni Safak: "For the very
first time in this country, high-level generals are facing charges
due to their coup attempts. It is an important investigation in
both its nature and its political consequences. Eventually we may
or may not end up with a civilian political system."

Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet carried this op-ed from its editorial
board: "What kind of investigation is this that has lasted over a
year and is still collecting evidence? In the meantime, those
opposed to the government are labeled and accused, but no actual
charges are made. One wonders if the purpose is to conduct an
investigation based on legal norms or to use the legal system to
carry out the ruling party's agenda?"

Melih Asik wrote in mainstream Milliyet: "The Ergenekon case seems
like PM Erdogan's personal pursuit rather than a legal
investigation. The way the arrests were carried out and the way
journalists were treated cause serious suspicions about the real
intentions of the investigation. The AKP government, with the
support of the U.S. and the EU, is conducting its own coup against
the nationalist forces in this country. Republicans, secularists,
and Ataturkists, i.e. everybody supporting the secular republic, is
now an open target of the AKP."

Fikret Bila wrote in mainstream Milliyet: "The Ergenekon
investigation has lasted for more than a year. Given the broader
focus, one wonders if there is an attempt here to create a link
between different events and to present them as if they are all
connected. The general outlook looks like more of a settling of
scores which can bring some very serious consequences in the end."

Chief Prosecutor Presents his Verbal Statement
All papers report that Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman
Yalcinkaya completed his closing arguments in favor of closing the
AKP in Ankara yesterday. The statement lasted for one and a half
hours. Yalcinkaya said that "AKP wanted to bring Sharia to Turkey,
which poses a clear and present danger. Therefore, the party must be
closed down." Yalcinkaya stated that the AKP's proposed turban
amendments to the Constitution strengthened the arguments against
the AKP. The Chief Prosecutor also made reference to AKP Vice
Chairman Dengir Mir Firat's recent remarks when he called Ataturk's
reforms "traumatic" for Turkish society. Yalcinkaya also noted that
PM Erdogan supported Yasin Al-Kadi, whose name is on the UN's list
of those who support global terrorism, which Yalcinkaya argued shows
that the AKP has an inclination towards violence.

Cypriot Leaders Agree on Single Sovereignty and Single Citizenship
Mainstream Sabah and liberal Radikal report that Greek Cypriot
leader Dimitris Chrstofias and Turkish Cypriot Leader Mehmet Ali
Talat met yesterday in order to invigorate the peace negotiations on
the island. Both leaders agreed in principal that any solution
should be based on single sovereignty and single citizenship.
Further details will emerge during future negotiations.

TV News:
NTV

Domestic News

- On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in
Ankara to meet Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on Wednesday. The two
ministers will hold a joint press conference after their meeting.
Lavrov will also meet with President Abdullah Gul.

- Prime Minister Erdogan will travel to Malaysia on July 7-8 to
participate in the Developing-8 (D-8) Islamic countries meeting.

- Suleyman Celebi, the head of the left-leaning labor union DISK,

ANKARA 00001202 004 OF 004


was acquitted in the lawsuit for provoking illegal demonstrations
with his calls urging workers to gather in Istanbul's Taksim Square
for May Day celebrations.

International News

- French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad in Paris on July 12.

- Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has confirmed
he will quit domestic politics and take up the roll of UN special
envoy for Cyprus.

- Armenian President Sarkisian has invited Turkish President
Abdullah Gul to watch the September 6 soccer game between the
Armenian and Turkish national teams in Yerevan.

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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