Panel to hear ex-chief

Panel to hear ex-chief

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Panel to hear ex-chief

Former Chief of General Staff, retired Gen Büyükanıt (L), has been called to answer questions about his controversial meeting with Prime Minister Erdoğan. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Members of a parliamentary panel investigating past coups have agreed to invite former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt over a 2007 memorandum challenging the government, as well as a much-speculated Dolmabahçe meeting between the top soldier and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Our commission will hear Büyükanıt concerning the [military’s] e-memorandum of April 27 [2007]. However, we will also address questions concerning the Dolmabahçe meeting. We believe that it is important to know the content of that meeting,” Mehmet Şeker, a commission member from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said yesterday.

During yesterday’s debate, the CHP said Erdoğan should also be invited to the commission in order to give information regarding both the Feb. 28 process, which refers to the harsh army-led campaign that forced Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister, the late Necmettin Erbakan, to resign in June 1997, and the April 27 e-memorandum. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller is expected to appear before the commission on Nov. 7.

“He [Erdoğan] had at the time said that he would come if he is invited. If the members of the commission from the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] also agree, then he may be invited,” Şeker said.

Erdoğan held a closed meeting with Büyükanıt at the historical Dolmabahçe Palace – where Erdoğan has an office – on May 4, 2007, only days after the e-memorandum in which the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) threatened to step in to protect Turkey’s secular system after then-foreign minister, Abdullah Gül, became a presidential candidate.

When asked about the Dolmabahçe meeting at the time, Erdoğan said he and Büyükanıt promised to each other not to disclose the content of the meeting. “I will never break my promise,” Erdoğan said in response to insistent questions on the content of the meeting.

The secretiveness of the meeting led to much speculation. In February 2012, Erdoğan’s office denied media reports that said he had blackmailed Büyükanıt with alleged compromising images of the chief’s daughter at the secret meeting. The Prime Ministry’s statement called the allegations “baseless” and said Erdoğan reserved his right to legal action. The blackmail claims were carried by daily Aydınlık based on a U.S. diplomatic cable made public by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

In April 2012, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli urged Erdoğan to reveal what he had discussed with Büyükanıt, suggesting that the “e-memorandum” could have been drawn up in collusion between the government and Büyükanıt, stressing that it helped portray the ruling party as a victim and boosted its vote in the 2007 general elections.

The “e-memorandum,” posted on the military’s website around midnight on April 27, 2007, was the first episode in a chain of events that forced early elections. In the statement, the army threatened to step in to protect Turkey’s secular system after Gül became candidate for president.

Following his retirement, Büyükanıt publicly said he personally penned the statement. The fact that he has ducked investigation so far has fanned speculation that he is enjoying protection under a deal he made with Erdoğan.