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Curtain Falls on Susurluk Tragicomedy

HDN | 9/19/1997 12:00:00 AM |

Ten months later : The Susurluk affair has occupied the agenda in Turkey for 10 months ever since the traffic accident on Nov. 3, 1996 outside the small town of Susurluk near Balikesir. Finally Susurluk is once again making a name for itself for its ayran if nothing else Tangled web :The web of entangled relations was supposed to be untangled by the parliamentary commission set up to investigate the matter Snow White : The way some of the people involved in the Susurluk case related their sides of the

  • Ten months later : The Susurluk affair has occupied the agenda in Turkey for 10 months ever since the traffic accident on Nov. 3, 1996 outside the small town of Susurluk near Balikesir.
  • Finally Susurluk is once again making a name for itself for its ayran if nothing else
  • Tangled web :The web of entangled relations was supposed to be untangled by the parliamentary commission set up to investigate the matter
  • Snow White : The way some of the people involved in the Susurluk case related their sides of the story reminds one of how one tells the fairy-tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to childrenBy Hakan Aslaneli

    Susurluk is a pleasant little place, famous for its ayran, in the province of Balikesir which is the gateway from the Marmara Region to the Aegean. It also is the place where a tragicomic tale began. Actually this tale has no writer. The reason that such events, which seemed to follow their own course, came to be a tale is nothing other than that a hypnotized country couldn't wake up from its trance.

    It's as if this author-less tale had come from the pen of a writer; were there really heroes lined up, one behind the other, or were they just the product of dreams?

    Whoever or whenever these heroes, who were parading in front of the community with high-ranking and famous attributes, got out of all sorts of "difficulties," the fleeting sight of them as they disappeared in a cloud of dust left us in the dark once more.The worlds of darkness

    The famous heroes of Susurluk were creatures if the darkness. The one reason why these heroes were not pleased with the spotlight being turned on them was just so that their philosophy of "Anything we do is for the fatherland" would be kept in darkness. And just who wasn't in this tale in which firing a bullet or catching one for the honor of the fatherland was considered a sign of each one's heroism.

    Actually the heroes of this tragicomedy named Susurluk are everybody. That is, everyone who has any weight in this hypnotized society, who draws breath here and who claims to be seeking what is "right." However much they may blame each other for the dirty role which they have had in this tale, it is a reality that "everybody" has been restrained from one side in bringing out Susurluk.

    The tale begins on November 3, 1996 with a traffic accident. A 600 SEL Mercedes automobile on its way to Istanbul from the direction of Izmir was travelling on the highway at nearly 180 kilometers per hour and hit a truck. Those who heard the deafening noise of the accident that sounded much like a bomb explosion learned later that indeed a "bomb" did explode revealing the relations between the political world, the police and the mafia.

    The truck driver and his assistant who first struggled to the dark Mercedes tried to help. But following the frightful accident the two who see a vehicle approaching the dark Mercedes quickly from behind prefer to remain where they are. Because the agitated people who get out of the car behind are saying, "Oh my God, the patron is dead." This gives the first sign of how important the situation is. In a country where traffic accidents are a familiar matter with an average of 30 deaths a day, this incident, however was different. The vehicle that had become a wreck fit only for the junk yard was the last drop that caused the glass to overflow.The glass overflows

    This accident, only one of the traffic accidents that were reported from the four corners of the country, settles itself the following day at the very top of Turkey's agenda. Telephone traffic immediately intensifies when the identities of those who lost their lives in the accident and the one who was injured first reached the Susurluk district gendarmerie command; the famous police chief and one of the founders of the Special Activities Office, Huseyin Kocadag, was in the driver's seat.

    At his side is the leader of the Bucak tribe and True Path Party (DYP) Sanliurfa Deputy Sedat Bucak. He is the only person to emerge from the vehicle alive. In the back is the body of Abdullah Catli, someone who is first identified as Mehmet Ozbay but before long is found to be a murder defendant sought on a red bulletin by Interpol. Next to Catli in the back seat of the dark Mercedes is the lifeless body of Gonca Us who, it is discovered, worked in casinos.

    Three dead, one injured. The telephone traffic which began with the accident carried on in an attempt to solve the tangled web of relations. What business did these people have being in this vehicle? At the head of the questioning were the politicians, media and those from the creative arts, as well as those whose business was not clear -- all their opinions were sought. And so the first act in the tragicomedy called Susurluk opened.

    Date: Nov. 4, 1996 one day after the accident. It is understood that Mehmet Ozbay was murder defendant Abdullah Catli. It is suspected that Huseyin Kocadag and Sedat Bucak had been collaborating in a number of black deals with Catli in Kusadasi and in Izmir. It would turn out that Huseyin Kocadag who was serving as deputy police chief in Istanbul on that date had left Istanbul without telling anybody. Sedat Bucak would be taken to the Istanbul Capa Medical Faculty in a private ambulance.

    Nov. 5, 1996. The press continues to go after the incident thinking that it could help unravel many a question connected to the confused relations. In fact there was a group that claimed that Catli actually was not a murder defendant and fugitive narcotics dealer. This group would make the wolf sign with their hands and show their sorrow by saying "We have lost a hero" and fire their pistols into the air.

    In the days that followed... Catli is laid to rest in his home town, Nigde, in a striking funeral in which Oral Celik participates. Celik was among those connected with the assassination attempt on the Pope and the murder of journalist Abdi Ipekci. The other people whose bodies were taken from thedark Mercedes are buried quietly.

    The one person who could explain how a murderer who escapes from the law and commits crimes happened to be found with a police chief whose job was to catch fugitives from the law. That person, DYP Deputy Sedat Bucak's doctors forbade him to talk. After Bucak was discharged from the hospital, he saw fit to give journalist Behic Kilic the statement that he would give to the police. Bucak appeared for the first time on a program that Kilic had prepared and presented on HBB television. He spoke about the Susurluk accident and the people who shouldn't have been in the Mercedes as if he were telling the fairy-story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to a child who was on the point of falling asleep.

    As for Mehmet Agar's name which came on the agenda after the Susurluk accident -- such name that couldn't be put to one side. Agar was a police chief first and then in the Istanbul Police headquarters, the governor's office and the police general headquarters and finally became Minister for Interior Affairs. After his name became mixed in with the "dark" affair, he was pressured to resign by the prime minister. He resigned from the Interior Ministry. The date is 8 November 1996.

    The Turkish Parliament created a commission whose purpose was to unravel the complex web of relations between politicians, police and mafia that was spilled on the road after the Susurluk accident. Welfare Party Parliamentarian Mehmet Elkatmis was tipped to chair the research commission that consisted of one or two members from every party. The first act of the Susurluk story closes with the establishment of this commission.Second curtain rises

    The Susurluk commission packed with high-level officials had trouble inviting the people whom they want -- prime ministers included -- to testify. From day one the commission began working with great determination to unravel the tangled relations and produced a work program for itself. According to this program everybody suspected of having relations with the mafia was to testify. The commission agreed in principle to ensure that there were no leaks to the press, and the following day this agreement appeared on the first pages of the newspapers.

    The Susurluk commission wanted Sedat Bucak's testimony from the beginning but in spite of all its efforts, it couldn't get an answer. Bucak rejected the commission's invitation on the grounds that his doctors wouldn't give him permission even though just days before he sat opposite Behic Kilic on his television program for hours smoking one cigarette after another.

    At the same time the number of denunciations that reached the Susurluk commission numbered 75,000. Those who succeeded in waking up in an otherwise hypnotized society began a race with each other in order to provide the commission with information wrapping themselves around their telephones and fax machines. In spite of the agreement in principle to not provide information to the press, the newspaper headlines were full of such detail of who ate what at some reception or even details about just going to the toilet.

    Whatever the commission did or didn't do, it managed to establish a tie with the murder of casino king Omer Lutfu Topal. But whether it was the commission's work which was leaked to the press about this or the press in pursuit of the case isn't clear; however, Susurluk continued to fester.The Susurluk wealthy

    Behind the Susurluk accident which was seen as something that had happened somewhere beyond Turkey, the press seemed to be arriving at answers to the many questions before much time passed. One of these answers was provided by journalist Haluk Girti on Channel D. Girti sold the television channel expensive photos of Abdullah Catli arm and arm with Special Action Office Deputy Chief Ibrahim Sahin and special team policemen were sought for their part in the tale following the publication of the photograph. Despite all police efforts to arrest the police involved, Ibrahim Sahin was seen on television as a guest of yet another journalist. This time the hero of the reportage is Nazli Ilicak who is one of the writers for Aksam newspaper. She does not neglect to say that Sahin who claims there was no involvement on his part in the Susurluk accident will surrender when he wants to. After this report was published, what came to mind immediately was the evaluation which Sedat Bucak made to Behic Kilic. This is Ibrahim Sahin's version of the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:

    Just as the second act in the Susurluk play is about to end, there's a surprise. Sahin and his men who are being sought on the grounds that they are among the actors entwined in the dark relations surrender as sheep are sacrificed and blood anointed on their heads. The defendants are taken before the Istanbul State Security Court even as they make the sign of the wolf with their hands behind them, drawing a lot of attention by saying "Turkey feels proud of us."

    Even as it is being claimed that this group killed casino king Omer Lutfu Topal, the curtain on the second act is being brought down as the press reports on the kebab parties which were catered from outside at Metris Prison for the special team members kept there.

    Even as these developments are unfolding, the Susurluk research commission is working day and night. The nearly 70 million hypnotized citizens await the report which the commission is supposed to deliver to Parliament with curiosity. Commission chairman Mehmet Elkatmis issues a statement, "My head was confused." Date - Feb. 15, 1997.

    Elkatmis' statement could be taken as a sign that the new chapter in the tale meant in fact that the Susurluk tale was coming to a close. Unfortunately the commission made the web even more complex as the commission chairman who was appointed to reveal the dark ties and 70 million people decided their heads were scrambled. So the defendants in prison, including Sahin, left prison -- the court decided there wasn't enough evidence on which to try them -- with the same scenes of sacrifices as they had entered. As for the voices which arose behind the Susurluk defendants who were going on with red blood on their foreheads, they are the biggest sign of the Susurluk reality, "Turkey feels pride in you."

    And as for the person who was proclaimed the hero of murder defendants, Abdullah Catli, now's the time to set up a statue in his honor in the hypnotized country so that he will live on forever. Ciller claims support for accused

    The one person at the center of all the dark relations revealed after Susurluk was Abdullah Catli, who was accused of murder. Catli, using the name of Mehmet Ozbay, came and went to and from Turkey hundreds of times and it was revealed that he had done this at the order of the government. On Catli's body was found a green diplomatic passport and an official, special identity card which had been signed by Mehmet Agar when he was in charge of the police. These brought a new argument to the fore. The state was using Catli for special operations or so it seemed. True Path Party leader Tansu Ciller who was deputy prime minister at the time declared from the parliamentary podium, "He is a hero who has fired shots and been fired at for this country."

    The defendants from the special team were freed by the courts and what happened? Ciller made another statement. She proclaimed that each one of the people involved in the Susurluk affair, which after all was not really a black mark against the country, had actually been a hero. And during a tour of the Aegean region, Ciller wanted the government to apologize for having put them in prison, starting with Ibrahim Sahin. The question is left without an answer -- why?

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