‘I need to understand what Ergenekon is’

‘I need to understand what Ergenekon is’

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
‘I need to understand what Ergenekon is’

Josette Durrieu, Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, seems confused about the alleged clandestine coup gang after her jail visits. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

Turkey’s habitual practice of long detention periods without court conviction are unacceptable, said Josette Durrieu, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey, adding that she still needs to understand what Ergenekon is before forming an opinion on the trials.

In a fact-finding visit to Turkey on June 18 Durrieu said in the context of the global principle of “presumption of innocence” it was unacceptable for so many people to be detained in prison without court convictions. Durrieu visited former Chief of Staff İlker Başbuğ, CHP deputies Mustafa Balbay, Mehmet Haberal and MHP deputy Engin Alan in Silivri Prison during her visit. All four are currently being detained as part of the ongoing Ergenekon investigation.

“I am in a need to understand what Ergenekon is. What lies behind this? Is there a real illegal organization behind it? Or is this the sum of different actions made at different times by different organizations? Or is this an imaginary organization as was frequently told to me by different people?” Durrieu said in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News June 19 following her visit to Silivri Prison.
There are so many court cases currently open in Turkey, and many of them are about past military coup attempts, Durrieu said.

“Some of these cases are about what happened in [the military coup of] 1980 and some of them are about what happened after that. I am in a need of understanding what Ergenekon is, because in order to be able to have an opinion you have to understand what [Ergenekon] is and you have to be sure about it. It is impossible to have an opinion without a full understanding of all these [cases],” Durrieu said.

“There is problem in the justice system of Turkey”

Currently there are numerous people jailed in Turkey, Durrieu said. “It is not only about arrested soldiers or parliamentarians. There are youngsters, students, children, members of the university, etc. There are really a massive number of people that are being jailed. I have seen in Silivri Prison that half of the people in prison are [only] under arrest, they are not sentenced or convicted. The fact that so many people are under arrest for such a long time is against the [principle of] justice all by itself. There is a serious need for reform in the justice system in Turkey,” Durrieu said.

Durrieu spoke with Başbuğ, Balbay, Haberal and Alan in prison about both their personal situations and the general situation in Turkey, she said.

“We have talked about the accusations and charges against them. It is for sure that if there really was a coup attempt, it should not necessarily be something arranged within the state itself. But of course I don’t know the answer to the question of whether there was a coup attempt or not. I just wonder the answer of this question. They [Başbuğ and the arrested deputies] of course deny this. They say some digital documents were submitted to the court as evidence and that there is no real evidence against them,” Durrieu said.

It is natural to carry out an investigation if there really is a failed attempt at a military coup, however, the problem is the long detention periods those in prison are facing, Durrieu said.

“The problem here is; these people are in prison right now and they claim that there is no real evidence against them. The real problem is in holding these people in prison for such a long time. It is unacceptable in context with the principle of “presumption of innocence.” Therefore if there is a real attempt at a coup, it has to be searched, investigated and the court has to make a decision on whether these people are innocent or guilty. It is a big problem that these people are kept in prison for such a long time. It of course shows that there is a problem in the justice mechanism and the justice system in Turkey,” Durrieu said.

Durrieu is scheduled to meet with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as well as the ministers of Justice, and Family and Social Policies during her stay.