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MURAT YETKİN > Power game within Turkish establishment

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The demand of the Istanbul prosecutor to question the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) head Hakan Fidan, together with two top intelligence officers because of their secret talks as ordered by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with the illegal Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has turned into a serious crisis in Ankara yesterday.

By coincidence, yesterday was Thursday. Thursdays are known in the Turkish capital for years as the “Day of the State.” The reason is simple. In the Turkish establishment the regular contacts at the highest level are carried out on a weekly bases and that day of the week is Thursday. Every Thursday, if the actors are in town, the undersecretary (the top position) of MİT and the Chief of Joint Staff go separately first to the Prime Minister and then to the President, and the weekly briefing protocol is completed by Prime Minister’s visit to the President. This is the “day of the State” routine. So everyone will have the chance to share information at the top level of the establishment.

That is why yesterday there was such an intense, high level of traffic in Ankara; not only because of the crisis over the intended MİT probe, but it created a perfect opportunity to discuss the issue.
Taking the opportunity, instead of going to Istanbul to appear before the prosecutor - like former chief of staff İlker Başbuğ did on Jan. 5 and got arrested the same day - Fidan went up to the Presidential Palace up in Çankaya Hill and had a long session with President Abdullah Gül.

Following the visit, Presidential sources told to press that the President was closely observing the developments regarding the issue.

The developments included a long meeting in the Prime Minister’s office with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin - that was not the part of the Thursday routine, but part of the crisis. At some stage a number of ranking officials of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) joined them as well.

First a draft to change the inner regulation of the Parliament, which caused a huge row between the government and opposition parties on Jan. 8, is withdrawn; that was a move to clear the Parliamentary agenda for a matter of bigger urgency. Then reports started to flow on another draft to change the 250th article of the Turkish Penal Code.

The article suggests that the prosecutor shouldn’t ask anybody’s authority to open a probe on a public servant, if the suspected crime is “against the state order.” That is in clear contradiction with the 26th article of the MİT law, which says that Prime Minister’s permission is needed for investigation for cases of suspected crimes related with authorized duty; secret services are not charity organizations and they talk to illegal structures when needed, as one minister stated yesterday.

Almost all army officers and some intelligence officers as well, could be arrested without the need to ask permission from their superiors in the last few years to be tried in the coup claim cases, thanks to that article adopted under the AK Parti rule.

In order to shield the Turkish secret service, the government is attempting to change the law and it will have some side effects within the establishment.

February/10/2012

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