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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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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, SEPTEMBER 10, 2008

In Today's Papers

German Charity Charged with Fraud Linked to Turkey
All media outlets continue their prominent coverage into the ongoing
German investigation into alleged indiscretions by the
Islamist-oriented Deniz Feneri charity organization based in
Germany. On Tuesday, Deniz Feneri ("Light House") managers appeared
before court in Germany on charges regarding the embezzlement of
donations. German financial inspector Alexander Bohm told the court
60 percent of the charity's donations were illegally sent to finance
Turkey's ruling AKP and several Islamic companies. Mainstream
Hurriyet and other Dogan Media Group papers quote the
Turkish-heritage German lawmaker Hakki Keskin as saying "a
considerable part of the 41 million Euros raised in donations was
couriered to Islamist-oriented companies and media outlets in
Turkey." Mainstream Milliyet says there were documents presented to
the court which showed Deniz Feneri funds were given to PM Erdogan
to extend to tsunami victims in eastern Asia.

Papers also report the Turkish Deniz Feneri charity managers held a
press conference yesterday to respond to charges over alleged links
with the German Deniz Feneri organization based in Germany. The
head of the charity in Turkey, Engin Yilmaz, acknowledged the
Turkish Deniz Feneri received donations totaling 6.94 million Euro
from the German charity over the last three years, but stressed the
transfer of funds from Germany had been "totally legal." Liberal
Radikal points to the fact that Turkish Deniz Feneri officials admit
accepting the funds from the German-based Deniz Feneri, but that
they still insist there was no link between the two organizations.


German prosecutor Kerstin Lotz also reportedly claimed there were
links between the Deniz Feneri charities in Turkey and Germany. She
also said the Islamist-leaning Kanal 7 televisions in Turkey and
Germany, which had close ties with the two charities, were also
linked to each other. The prosecutor presented as evidence a
program Kanal 7 TV aired about the Deniz Feneri organization, which
showed a poor family in urgent need of help, giving bank account
numbers for donations to the family. The bank account turned out to
be the account of Deniz Feneri in Germany.

Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports when the AKP came to power in
2002, Deniz Feneri managers applied twice to Turkey's top
administrative court the Council of State (Danistay) to obtain the
status of "organizations working for public interest," and thus
receive authorization for collecting donations without applying to
the authorities in advance. The Council of State turned down both
requests. In 2004, the AKP council of ministers changed the law of
associations, shifting the authority to grant aid organizations the
status of "working for public benefit" from the Council of State to
the Council of Ministers as well as allowing Deniz Feneri to collect
donations without obtaining prior permissions, reports Cumhuriyet.


RTUK's 'Critical' Meeting Postponed
All papers report the Deniz Feneri indictment also charges Zahid
Akman, the head of Turkish radio and television watchdog RTUK, for
laundering money from Germany to Turkey. The Deniz Feneri
investigation also revealed that Akman continued holding key
positions in four German companies linked to Deniz Feneri for almost
a year even after he was appointed a member of the RTUK board, in
spite of the fact that RTUK law banned such engagements for its
members. Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports a regular meeting
of RTUK board members was canceled yesterday when the board's
pro-AKP members declined participating in the meeting which was
expected to question Akman over the charges. Papers note that
recent changes in the RTUK law required the approval of the PM to
take legal action against the board members. "Akman is trying to
gain time to avoid resignation," writes tabloid Posta whereas
mainstream Hurriyet says "RTUK's AKP board members skipped the

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meeting to avoid discussions over Akman's position."

Opposition CHP, MHP Reaction to Deniz Feneri Scandal
Opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal said the scandal in Germany has
helped reveal one of the sources that had been used to finance the
AKP. Opposition far right MHP leader Devlet Bahceli lashed out at
Prime Minister Erdogan and called on Turkish prosecutors to probe
allegations over the accusations in the Deniz Feneri charity.
Bahceli said the PM, "in panic," resorted to "blackmail" in an
effort to silence press reports concerning the irregularities.
"Erdogan is applying methods such as blackmail in order to save his
dynasty. The PM is acting with a psychology of guilt," emphasized
Bahceli.

Editorial Commentary on Deniz Feneri Scandal

Cuneyt Ulsever wrote in mainstream Hurriyet: "The problem of
corruption is now the weakest link of the AKP government.
Corruption charges were overshadowed by the AKP closure case
proceedings but the sale of the Sabah-ATV media group should have
been the most obvious example for this debate. The, the AKP's Saban
Disli [former Deputy Chairman] bribe case surfaced, and now the
Deniz Feneri allegations have also surfaced. If the CHP focuses its
campaign merely on corruption, the AKP will likely suffer more
serious wounds."

Ali Bayramoglu wrote in Islamist oriented Yeni Safak: "The Prime
Minister's reaction against the Dogan Media Group was harsh and
untimely, and he looks as if he has no tolerance for criticism. The
corruption debate over the Deniz Feneri case and the Saban Disli
case deserves serious attention. Yet at the same time, Turkey's
media tradition, like in the Dogan Media Group, is corrupt as well.
Central media outlets have become a place for dirty business
connections. In order to have a full and complete democracy, Turkey
is needs to restructure relations between the media and politics."


Cengiz Candar wrote in liberal-intellectual Radikal: "Prime Minister
Erdogan made a very suspicious move against media's main duty of
being a watch dog over the government. Given the recent
presidential trip to Yerevan and other international efforts which
Turkey is involved, Prime Minister Erdogan's step only casts a
shadow over potential success story for Turkey. This is very
annoying."

Ergun Babahan commented in Sabah: "The main reason for the current
tension in Turkey is due to not having a serious opposition party.
People have lost their faith in political parties and expect the
media to work like an opposition party. When politics is weakened,
the media gets stronger and automatically becomes an extension of
the trade. And the weak opposition picks the strongest media group
as its supporter. This is the current problem in Turkey, the weak
opposition is threatening the democracy."


Hasan Cemal wrote in Milliyet: "An indictment is always considered
as news in every country with a free press. From a democracy
perspective, it is very wrong for Erdogan to target a media group
for covering news. It is not a common attitude in democracies for a
Prime Minister to react against such news with such fury. The PM's
attitude during the recent events has cost him political support.
Aydin Dogan urged the PM to stop targeting the media and exert
efforts to carry Turkey toward the EU. This is Turkey's real
agenda. We hope that PM Erdogan will stop targeting the media soon
and start working on Turkey's real agenda."

Mustafa Mutlu wrote in Vatan: "During the Ergenekon investigation,
the partisan media, without waiting for the indictment, declared
everyone guilty. In the Ergenekon case, there wasn't even an
indictment, yet, in the Deniz Feneri case is near conclusion.

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Besides, all over the world, it is the media's right and duty to
make news after an indictment is released."

President Gul Appoints Rectors for 23 Newly Founded Universities
All papers report that President Gul appointed rectors to 23 newly
found universities. Milliyet notes that 16 of these rectors were
among the scholars who had signed a declaration that asked for
freedom for headscarf in universities. And 12 of them were on the
top of the list which was submitted by the High Education Board
(YOK).

Justice Minister Approves the Prosecution of 36 People Under Article
301
Liberal Radikal reports that Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin
approved the prosecution of 36 people under article 301 of the
Turkish Penal Code. Sabah reports that Justice Minister Sahin gave
the green light to invoke article 301 of the penal code against
author Temel Demirel for inciting hatred at a press conference held
one day after the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

PKK Terror
Hurriyet reports an ongoing large scale military operation against
PKK in Turkey's southeast. Following an armed attack by PKK
terrorists in Sirnak Beytussebap area a few days ago, the Turkish
military launched a comprehensive land operation, supported by
Sikorsky helicopters, in the region. Forces from Special
Operational Unit are heavily stationed in Sirnak's Kato Mountain, a
Hurriyet local reporter notes.

Meanwhile, Cumhuriyet reports that Prime Ministry's Anti-Terror
Board meeting will be held tomorrow in Ankara, and Prime Minister
Erdogan will chair. The board includes Chief of Turkish General
Staff, Chief Commanders, ministers and representatives from security
and intelligence agencies. According to Cumhuriyet, the meeting
will focus on the social, cultural and economic factors in the fight
against PKK terror.

Editorial Commentary on Turkey-Iraq-PKK

Abdulhamit Bilici in Islamist-oriented Zaman: "A recent column in
the pro-Barzani English daily Kurdish Globe says the PKK is the
largest obstacle in front of the northern Iraqi Kurds' Kirkuk cause.
It advises the regional government to take the PKK card from
Turkey's hands, and totally discard the organization in the region.
Some who looks at northern Iraq from Turkey believe Kurdish leaders
are holding the PKK as a trump card against Turkey. It's unclear
whether the 'PKK card' is in the hands of the Kurdish regional
government, Turkey, Iran or the US. But it's clear that questioning
what the PKK is about has begun on the other side of the border."


Bush's Military Game
Media outlets report on U.S. President Bush's announcement to
withdraw 8000 troops from Iraq, but stops short of any further
withdrawal. Media coverage is skeptical of Bush's military plans,
primarily because of the announcement to send 4500 additional troops
to Afghanistan, where the U.S. is under intense local criticism for
the rise in civilian casualties resulting from U.S. operations
there. Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports in "Bush's Military
Game," that "only 8000 US troops will withdraw from Iraq," but "4500
additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan," as "Bush apologizes
for the civilian loss of life in Afghanistan," which "totals 3000 in
the last three years." Liberal Radikal carries straightforward
coverage of the Iraq pullout, but notes "a village in Afghanistan is
enraged at the U.S." regarding civilian casualties in Herat. Far
right Ortadogu reports, "Bush transfers soldiers from Iraq to
Afghanistan."

Russian Troops Remain in Georgia
Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports, "Russian Soldiers Are a

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Permanent Fixture," in Georgia as "7600 soldiers are sent to South
Ossetia and Abkhazia." Islamist-oriented Zaman reports in "Russia
Remains in Georgia," that, "Yesterday Russia decided that they no
longer see South Ossetia and Abkhazia as Georgian territory," and,
"Russia will commence new diplomatic relations on the ambassadorial
level with South Ossetia and Abkhazia." Leftist Taraf reports,
"Russia gives the green light to diplomatic relations with Abkhazia
and South Ossetia." Mainstream Hurriyet notes, "While Russia has
recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and has
begun diplomatic relations with the two countries, yesterday Russia
said they will not recognize the independence of northern Cyprus
because 'the ethnic problems in the Caucasus and in Cyprus are
different."

In a related story, leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports in "We
Don't Want to Be Like Northern Cyprus," that Abkhazian
Parliamentarian Soner Gogua told the paper "Russia is our only
lifeline," and "we see Turkey as a second lifeline as a neighbor on
the Black Sea," and, "we would value the establishment of relations
with Turkey." In addition, the paper notes Gogua emphasizes, "We
realize Turkey is in a tough situation because of its NATO alliance
and its strategic energy relations with both Russia and Georgia."

Russia Angered by U.S. Withdrawal from Civil Nuclear Deal
Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports in "Nuclear Cooperation
Shelved," that "Washington has halted its agreement with Moscow."
Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak reports, "The U.S. decided to halt the
civil nuclear deal with Russia because the U.S. was not satisfied by
the steps taken by the EU against Russia." CNN Turk reports,
"Russia reacts angrily to the decision by the U.S. to withdraw from
a civil nuclear deal." Liberal Radikal reports, "The U.S. can deal
more damage to Russia by taking a multi-faceted approach to
penalizing Russia for its actions."

Editorial Commentary on Pakistan

Ergin Yildizoglu in leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet: "The US must
urgently provide financial support to Pakistan, or this new
government will not last long either. If this new Pakistani
government collapses, a new military takeover will be inevitable.
Pakistan is a nuclear power. If state power in Pakistan dissolves
toward a point where it cannot control these nuclear weapons, the US
and NATO might not stand a chance other than uniting the
Afghanistan-Pakistan geographies into a single war platform. Such a
scenario would be a total catastrophe, especially at a time when
Russia is trying to intensify its influence and halt NATO's
expansion in the region. If any lessons are to be taken from
Pakistan, they would be related to the societal cost of becoming too
intermingled with militarist points such as the US, flirting with
political Islam, and turning a blind eye to the irregularities of
politicians for the sake of short-term stability."

TV News:
CNN Turk

Domestic News

- The Kurdish DTP mayor of the southeastern city of Batman, Huseyin
Kalkan, has been sentenced to ten month in prison for spreading
"terror propaganda."

- Energy Minister Hilmi Guler has invited Azerbaijan and
Turkmenistan to make joint energy investments with Turkey in energy
projects in the Black Sea.

- Mehmet Buyukeksi, a businessman known to be close to the ruling
AKP, has been elected the president of Turkish Exporters' Union
(TIM).

International News

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- President Bush has announced a plan to return from Iraq about
8,000 US military personnel over the next several months.

- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on Tuesday Russia officially
established diplomatic relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.


- Israeli cabinet minister Rafi Eytan suggests Israel could abduct
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the threats he has made
against the Jewish state.

WILSON

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