Is the alleged “Action Plan” to undermine AKP government true or fake? One may never know!

Yazan: HaberVs

Niyazi Dalyancı Whether a document containing plans to undermine the government allegedly written by a colonel at the headquarters of the Turkish General Staff is authentic evidence of the presence of a junta within the officer ranks or a fabrication leaked to the media with the purpose of discrediting the armed forces, dominated the political […]

Niyazi Dalyancı

Whether a document containing plans to undermine the government allegedly written by a colonel at the headquarters of the Turkish General Staff is authentic evidence of the presence of a junta within the officer ranks or a fabrication leaked to the media with the purpose of discrediting the armed forces, dominated the political agenda in the country for the past week. Latest reports indicate that the public might never learn where the truth lies.

The public debate over the document was launched in full fervor after the Taraf newspaper published it last week claiming that it was found among the evidence seized at the office of a lawyer who is presently under arrest as one of the defendants of the Ergenekon trial where nearly 200 suspects including officers, university professors, journalists, lawyers and police chiefs are charged with setting up an armed terror organization to overthrow the elected government in Turkey. Scores of defendants including top ranking generals are presently under arrest.

The document titled “Action Plan for the Struggle Against Religious Radicalism” and dated as recently as April 2009, targets both the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the so-called Fethullah Gulen community, that has become increasingly influential in the country’s social and political scene in recent decades. The alleged plan includes a wide-range of measures, including “planting weapons, documents and material” that would point to illegal activities at houses used by the community, launching a media campaign discrediting the government and claiming that officers arrested under Ergenekon have been imprisoned because of their activities against radical Islam. The campaign plan is also aimed at accusing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of leading Turkey towards a society run according to Islamic Sharia law. It also mentions plans to implant agents within AKP to create a rift among the party ranks.

The document carries the signature of Col. Dursun Cicek, a navy staff officer working for the Information Support Unit of the Operations Department of the General Staff Headquarters. Col. Cicek’s name first appeared last year, also in the Taraf newspaper with another document in which he allegedly classified civil society associations, public figures and journalists as pro-government and anti-government in long lists. At the time, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the Chief of Staff then, denied that the document was drafted at his headquarters. He dismissed it as “cheap propaganda.” But no legal investigation was made to find out whether the document was real or “fabricated propaganda.”

After the publication of the recent “Action Plan” Gen. Ilker Basbug, the Chief of Staff had a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, following which he announced that the military prosecutors have launched an investigation into the issue. But, he also, said, Col. Cicek was questioned about the document and he denied writing it. “No evidence was found during the thorough scrutiny of computers at the headquarters that this document was written there,” said Gen. Basbug. However, he added that the investigation will go on until the truth is brought under light.

Meanwhile, lawyers of Serdar Ozturk, the Ergenekon defendant at whose office the document was allegedly found, claimed that they first saw it in Taraf. They claimed, they were at Ozturk’s office during the police search and they did not see such a document. Besides, they said, Ozturk was aware of his possible arrest and did not keep any CD’s in his office. Because the investigation for the third indictment under which their client comes, is secret, Ozturk’s lawyers stated that the judge did not allow them access to the files where the document had been placed. “I don’t understand how such a document finds its way to the Taraf newspaper while we as lawyers cannot have access to it,” Demet Recber, Ozturk’s lawyer complained.

Before becoming a lawyer, Ozturk had served in the army and lost one eye during fighting in the southeast in 1994 and had been retired as an invalid. At the time he was awarded “Medal of Honor” for his services. After his arrest he said he would return the medal to the President saying, “I cannot be a hero and a terrorist at the same time.”

The original copy missing

Military prosecutors asked for the original copy of the controversial document both from the Ergenekon prosecutors in Istanbul and the Taraf newspaper in order to carry out a forensic study of Col. Cicek’s signature and on the actual paper. It turned out that neither the Ergenekon file nor the Taraf newspaper possessed the original copy. Forensic experts said it was very difficult if not entirely impossible to establish the authenticity of the document when the study is carried on the photocopy.

Chief Prosecutor in Istanbul, Turan Colakkadi, confirmed that the original document was missing. “The study will be carried out on the photocopy. We can only establish whether there is a similarity or not between the actual signature and the one on the photocopy,” he said.

Milliyet columnist Fikret Bila commenting on the situation pointed out that there will always be an element of doubt if the original document is not found. “If it still exists somewhere,” he adds.

However, military forensic authorities said later in the week that the signature of Col. Cicek looked “similar” to the signature on the photocopy.

The divide continues

Col. Cicek’s alleged “Action Plan” against the government and Fethullah Gulen’s community, accentuated the wide divide once again among the opinion makers of Turkey. While media organs generally supportive of the AKP government go on emphasizing that the document is the evidence of a junta within the military determined to overthrow the democratic regime, those on the opposition insinuate that Fethullah followers who have long infiltrated into the police force might have fabricated it to discredit the armed forces and block any criticism against the government and how the Ergenekon trial is being conducted.

Taraf’s chief editor Ahmet Altan dismisses the possibility that the document might have been “fabricated” by Fethullah supporters. “Don’t be deceived by the mumblings of the media that is trying to distort the events; listen to the rumblings coming from the people. They are angry…They are sick and tired of the military’s arrogance, their concealing of the guilty, their way of overlooking the heaviest crimes by hiding behind a legal oddity called military jurisdiction, their setting free those who throw bombs, hide ammunition dumps, and those who write memorandums,” Altan wrote.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Orhan Bursali of Cumhuriyet newspaper writes that he does not believe “at all” that this document has been drafted within the hierarchical order of the armed forces.

“But if this ‘document’ has been prepared by a ‘cell’ within the army and distributed all over the place so that all the spies can find it, then the armed forces must bring this out immediately. Or if it is fabricated by civilian spies and presented as a document of the armed forces, then again this also must be uncovered urgently,” writes Bursali.

Commentators of the pro-government newspapers also criticize the fact that forensic study of the document is being conducted by the military expressing doubts like Altan that army authorities might conceal the facts that would incriminate Col.Cicek. They demand civilian prosecutors to deal with the question.

Opinion makers on the opposite side object to this criticism saying that the document was already in the files of the civilian prosecutors who are investigating the Ergenekon case before it was leaked to the press. It should have been subjected to forensic study by the Ergenekon prosecutors before it was published in the Taraf newspaper.

Those who express doubt about the culprits of the document point to a video talk posted on Fethullah Gulen’s website in the U.S. before Taraf’s publication. In that talk, Gulen mentions about possible plans to undermine his movement by planting weapons and ammunition in houses belonging to his followers almost in identical terms with the controversial document. The Taraf reporter, Mehmet Baransu, who wrote the news about the document, admitted in a television news program that Gulen might have been informed about the contents of the “Action Plan.” But he said he did not have any knowledge about which channels might have alerted Gulen who has been living in Pennsylvania for the last ten years leading a worldwide faith movement, opening schools, hostels and other public facilities at the head of a vast financial empire that runs media companies in Turkey and elsewhere. Gulen has been tried for anti-secular activities and acquitted last year in Turkey. The financial support that his empire feeds on comes from still obscure sources. Spokesmen for his movement say that the only support they have is “contributions” from followers.

Erdogan’s ambiguity

Although media supporting his government dismisses any doubts about the authenticity of the document, after his meeting with Gen. Basbug, Erdogan mentioned the possibility that the “Action Plan” might be a fake. He pointed out that it might be an attempt to undermine relations between the institutions of the Turkish state, namely the government and the armed forces. But whatever it is, he added, the truth should be uncovered at all costs.

However, shortly after Erdogan’s statement, his party officials filed a petition with the Ankara prosecutor complaining about the presence of “illegal activities” to overthrow the elected government.

“The Action Plan” constitutes yet another formidable “Gordion’s Knot” in the already embroiled domestic Turkish political scene and given the present state of affairs, it would be quite a surprise if it is unraveled.

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