An overview of what is happening in Turkey

An overview of what is happening in Turkey

Almost two hours before the Turkish Parliament’s Justice Commission voted for a draft by the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government on the evening of Feb. 14 to tie legal investigations on the actions of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to the permission of the prime minister, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), the outlawed popular front of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), made an interesting public statement.

The statement was like an intervention in the ongoing row between the intelligence and judiciary circles, which has given a headache to the Tayyip Erdoğan government since Istanbul Prosecutor Sadrettin Sarıkaya opened an investigation against Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkish intelligence, along with former head Emre Taner and three more intelligence officers, because of the talks they carried out with the PKK under Erdoğan’s orders.

The secret talks were blown up when recordings of some parts of those talks were leaked to the Internet in September 2011. According to those recordings, the MİT team was involved in the talks in the Norwegian capital Oslo, the talks were the sixth in a series and Fidan was not the head of MİT yet – that was roughly April of 2011.

According to KCK claims, the talks between the Erdoğan-authorized delegation and PKK’s imprisoned-for-life leader Abdullah Öcalan and the PKK chiefs abroad were carried out for three years – starting from 2008 and going on through June 2011. If this piece of information is correct, it is important since the parliamentary elections in which Erdoğan got 50 percent clear support from people was on June 12 last year.

Again, if the start of the negotiations is really in 2008, that has an important meaning too. Following the game-changing row between the military-led establishment and the government over Abdullah Gül’s presidency in the spring of 2007, in which a one-on-one meeting between Erdoğan and then Chief of General Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt had played a crucial role, the Ergenekon probe had started to disclose an alleged conspiracy against the government. The same year Turkey and the United States had gone into greater scale cooperation against the PKK bases in Iraq.

By 2008, the prosecutors had submitted the Ergenekon indictment to the specially authorized court, Büyükanıt had retired and gave his chair over to Gen. İlker Başbuğ and another probe called “Balyoz-Sledgehammer” had started in practice to deepen the Ergenekon probe within the armed forces. In 2009, the government, it seems after the talks had started with the PKK, launched the once-called “Kurdish Opening,” which did not bear much fruit so far.

Yet one can conclude Erdoğan might have felt more comfortable to authorize the MİT head Taner to directly contact the PKK, which had been probably objected to by the military until then.

The situation as of yesterday, Feb. 15, 2012, is as follows: Gen. Başbuğ is in jail and the prosecutor has requested life imprisonment for the former head of the Turkish military with accusations of heading a terrorist organization to undermine the government. The government pushes Parliament to save the intelligence chiefs from prosecutor interrogation to avoid questions on the PKK. The PKK and KCK sympathizers took to the streets in various towns yesterday to protest the 13th anniversary of the arrest of Öcalan – he was captured as he left the Greek Embassy in Kenya in a joint operation by MİT and the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1999.