Ergenekon case approaches an end, too

Ergenekon case approaches an end, too

Two former heads of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) have been invited to give their testimony as witness, by judges of the Istanbul 13th Penal Court for the Ergenekon case, in which hundreds of military and civilian defendants are being tried on accusations of conspiring to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government.

This will be the first time ever that two former heads of intelligence will have appeared before the court, even as witnesses. The invitation is particularly important for three main reasons.

The first one is the timing. The invitations were made right after another specially authorized Istanbul (10th) court gave heavy penalties in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case against high ranking military officers for attempting to overthrow the government. That ruling also coincided with a new implementation of the Constitutional Court to start accepting individual applications from citizens who are unhappy with the court rulings. The new implementation aims to reduce Turkey’s cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), since the ECHR only accepts applications that have expired all national legal capacities.

The second reason is the importance of the names involved. Retired General Teoman Koman, now 76, served as the head of MİT from 1988 to 1992 and as the Gendarmerie Commander from 1994 to 1996. He was arrested once earlier this year in relation to another military intervention into politics case, but was then released. Meanwhile, Şenkal Atasagun was the first head of MİT from within the civilian sphere when he took office in 1998, serving in the organization until 2005. He is important because when the indictment of the Ergenekon case was released in 2008, it became clear from a short letter by MİT to the court that the former had received a CD from an undisclosed source regarding a quasi-organization within the state apparatus, known as Ergenekon, back in 2002. However, Atasagun did not let the government know about this piece of intelligence until 2003. In the meantime, the Bülent Ecevit coalition government lost the elections and the AK Parti was leading the country with Tayyip Erdoğan as prime minister. Atasagun’s testimony, if it takes place, might therefore play a key role in the ruling.

The third indication of the possibly-approaching end of Ergenekon follows the Aug. 2 and 3 testimony of Hilmi Özkök, a former Chief of General Staff, which changed the course of debate in public opinion. This is because Özkök said for the first time that his inferior generals had mentioned the concept of issuing a warning to the government, which he did not agree to and did not do. It is still a matter of discussion whether the court will invite Aytaç Yalman to testify. Yalman was the Land Forces commander at the time who according to Özkök actually mentioned warning the AK Parti government.

All indications show that, like the Balyoz case, the end may not be that far away in the Ergenekon case, either.