From an investigation against alleged coup plotters Ergenekon seems to turn into an instrument used by the government to silence critical intellectuals and journalists.
When the legal procedures of the Ergenekon case started in 2007, the European Union seemed to be just as pleased as many Turkish citizens. Finally someone seemed to start acting against alleged coup plotters within the army, which has a long tradition of intervening into politics and topple governments. It was an unprecedented step of a civil government in this country to send police officers to imprison high ranking active duty generals, as the army is traditionally seen as the untouchable guarantor of laicism and the republican structure of the nation itself, defending it against „islamists“. EU and many commentators respectively were happy about the strengthening of the elected government, even though the steps were taken by the religious and conservative AK Party and their loyalists in the judicial system.
Too many journalists among the detainees
The perception of the Ergenekon case changed solidly when the public learned about the incarceration of two prominent journalist who are well know for critical stance on the AKP as well as the army’s influence on politics. Thousands of journalists took to the streets after Ahmed Şık and Nedim Şener were imprisoned. Then the major topic was no longer the armed forces‘ power but the power of the government to silence unpleasant media and reporters. Along with Şık and Şener twelve others were arrested after a raid on the offices of oppositional Oda TV internet site, eleven of them Oda TV journalists and one former National Intelligence agent.
Since that day it became a regularly outspoken perception that „every oppositional thinker gets somehow linked to Ergenekon and ends up in prison“. Another often expressed sentence: „In the entire case there will be no results, no convictions. This is just a way to intimidate everyone who is not satisfied with the AKP and speaks out too loudly“. And the longer the procedures takes, the more the critics are convinced about that perception.
Now, even the growing football match fixing-scandal in public view gets connected to the Ergenekon case. The same prosecutor who opened Ergenekon, Zekheria Öz, opened up the match fixing-case and has meanwhile been removed from of both of them. It is as well disturbing for many that a cheating case is dealt with in front of a „Specially Authorised Court“, where the defendants are curbed off many constitutional rights to defend themselves and don’t even know the proves against them, as the procedures are confidential. Ususally these courts deal with coup plotters and „terrorists“, but not with cheaters.
It seems just as strange that the prosecution asks for 87 years imprisonment for the main accused, Fenerbace Club president Aziz Yildirim, and accuses him of „organising an armed criminal organisation“. “Where are the weapons?“, many want to know now. Yildirim is well known for his close contacts to the army, since his family’s company has built the country’s NATO bases and had a hand on weapon deals for the armed forces. For many years Fenerbahce was seen as a Kemalist, laicist stronghold in Turkish football and for many of the club’s fans it seems clear that this is „just an AKP conspiracy against the club and it’s president“. And the questions, if there was match fixing or not became a side issue under these circumstances. It is rather asked, when there will be an official connection between the cases.
On August 26 the indictment against the Şık and Şener and the other twelve defendants was presented, a decision if it would be accepted by the court is expected to be issued within two weeks. The defendants are charged with offences like “establishing and directing an armed terrorist organization, membership of an armed terrorist organization, aiding a terrorist organization, inciting the public to hatred and hostility, obtaining documents related to state security, obtaining confidential documents, violating the secrecy of private life, saving personal data and attempting to influence a fair trial”, press freedom organisation Bianet reports on it’s website. The prosecutor asks for 7,5 to 15 years for Şık and Şener. Worth mentioning, that both journalists in the past criticised the military harshly. While Şık wrote a book on the case, he is now part of, and urged the court to speed up, Şener wrote about the influence of ultra-nationalist gangs inside the security forces on the murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. So both rather contributed to the case than obstructing it.
“…unrelated to their writings…“
Thus it can be a coincidence that on the very same day the Ministry for Justice stated that only “four out of 64 [in Turkey] imprisoned journalists are accused because of their writing”. Regarding the indictment this is also true for Şık and Şener. It seems to be forgotten by the ministry, that the police found an unpublished book by Şık about the AKP loyalist sect „Gülen movement“ and it’s growing influence on the police forces. And it seems to be forgotten that this very book was forbidden even before publication in an unprecedented procedure. Ercan Ipekci, president of the Turkish Journalists union, can’t believe what the ministry states and said: „It is impossible to interpret the decisions on detentions and convictions as not based on allegations related to journalistic activities as violations of press freedom”.
It can also be a coincidence that on the very same day journalist Turan Özlü was taken into custody along with two researchers of the Istanbul University and a member of the Labour Party. Of course, their cases are part of the Ergenekon investigation.