Ex-intel chiefs asked to testify in coup case

Ex-intel chiefs asked to testify in coup case

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ex-intel chiefs asked to testify in coup case

Call on Intel chiefs, Koman to testify in an alleged coup case marks a first. AA Photo

An Istanbul court has ordered two former intelligence chiefs, Teoman Koman and Şenkal Atasagun, to testify as witnesses in the ongoing Ergenekon probe, a first in Turkey’s recent political history.

The move comes following a crisis earlier this year in which judges attempted to obtain testimony from National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan over talks with Kurdish militants, but the plan was scuttled by a law requiring the premier’s consent before any such summons. Such consent is not necessary in the present case, Turkish Prime Ministry officials said.

Both Koman and Atasagun have served as head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), and both are believed to have substantial knowledge about the alleged Ergenekon gang, which is accused of trying to topple the government in 2003 and 2004.

Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes summoned Koman and Atasagun, as well as two deputies, Şirin Ünal of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Emrehan Halıcı of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), journalist Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, energy expert Faruk Demir and former police chief Ahmet İhtiyaroğlu, the Anatolia news agency reported yesterday. What makes the court’s summons important is that it constitutes the first time two former intelligence officials have been called as witnesses.

No need for PM’s consent

Hundreds of retired and on-duty military personnel, prominent academics, journalists and civil society activists are being prosecuted for their alleged links with the Ergenekon gang, which allegedly sought to force the AKP government out of power due to concerns about its Islamist background. The Ergenekon case has become the most important case in the country, alongside the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) case, in which those believed to be responsible for an attempted coup are being tried for the first time in Turkey, which has seen three full and one partial coup in its history.

According to the Ergenekon indictment, MİT under Atasagun’s leadership was informed of the existence of the organizations called Ergenekon and Lobby by anonymous sources in July 2002, nearly six months before the AKP came into power. However, Atasagun preferred to keep the information at the MİT until July of the next year, during the early months of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s tenure. It is known that Atasagun shared this information with former Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök on July 10, 2003, and with Erdoğan on Nov. 19, 2003. It is believed that the judges in the Ergenekon case will want to ask Atasagun why he did not share this intelligence immediately after receiving it.

Koman, however, served as MİT chief between 1988 and 1992, well before the establishment of the Ergenekon organization. He was arrested and later released early this year for his alleged involvement in the Feb. 28, 2007, process or “post-modern coup,” in which the army forced the elected Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan from office. Koman served as Gendarmerie Forces Commander between 1995 and 1997, and is believed to have played key role in the Feb. 28 process. Koman earlier rejected an invitation from a parliamentary panel to share information regarding past coup attempts.