Top general unveils power game within Turkish brass
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Hilmi Özkök (3rd R) , a former chief of staff, accuses his deputy and predecessor in coup-plot testimony that reveals a power game within the military. DHA photoFormer Chief of General Staff Ret. Gen. Hilmi Özkök continued to give his testimony in the ongoing Ergenekon coup plot case Aug. 3, accusing his predecessor, Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu, of trying to block his path to becoming the country’s top military official. Özkök also accused then-second-in-command Gen. Aytaç Yalman of being the source of the idea to issue a memorandum against the AKP government in 2003.
Testifying at the 13th Istanbul High Criminal Court in Silivri, Özkök said he had cautioned then-commander of the Gendarmerie Forces Şener Eruygur in 2003 about the coup conspiracies, and had only praise for the former chief of staff and deputy chief of staff at the time, suspect İlker Başbuğ.
“Kıvrıkoğlu said I would not be able to struggle against [religious] fundamentalism. Hence, he did not want to appoint me as the chief of staff until there was no problem,” Özkök said.
When the judge asked whether there was any “direct or indirect effort from civil or military powers to make him resign,” Özkök said this did not happen. “However, when the [negative] reports were published about me in the papers, I thought maybe they were pushing me to resign,” he said.
In the second day of his testimony, Özkök named former Land Forces Commander Gen. Yalman as the author of the memorandum idea. Yalman was the one who “expressed the idea of issuing a memorandum to the government as a possible plan of action,” Özkök said, adding that “it was not a proposal.”
Özkök was calm and confident while responding to questions directed from the court board and the suspects’ lawyers. He left many queries unanswered, saying “he did not know” or “he had never heard of it.”
However, his answers regarding the alleged coup plans were critical. Özkök said another alleged coup plan, the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) plot, had gone beyond its intended aim, and that he had warned the officers responsible for it.
“There were some aspects related to certain politicians … This seminar was conducted and the most dangerous scenario was role-played beyond its aim. Political figures and political events were role-played as if they were real. I made the land forces commander investigate this afterwards,” Özkök said.
Özkök also said he “warned” the Gendarmerie commander at the time, Şener Eruygur, at Turkish General Staff Headquarters after a CD was given to him about the alleged coup plans “Ayışığı” (moonlight) and “Yakamoz” (phosphoresce in the sea). “I told Şener Eruygur that I knew about these documents, I warned him in light of these documents,” he said.
Özkök also said he was refused by the legal counselor of Gendarmerie General Command when he demanded a search of the computers at the command. “The counselor told me it would be better not to do this,” Özkök said.
Praise for İlker Başbuğ
İlker Başbuğ, another former chief of the General Staff, who is accused of being the leader of a terrorist organization, once again attended the hearing. His lawyer asked Özkök to define Başbuğ in just one sentence.
“A commander who did not lead me, but who assisted me in making decisions properly and someone whose work I gained advantages from,” Özkök said.
Özkök said the United States had asked the Turkish military to exert political pressure on the government to approve a parliamentary resolution that would have allowed American forces to use Turkish soil to open a northern front during the Iraq war in 2003. The resolution, however, failed to receive enough votes and was rejected in a parliamentary vote on March 1, 2003. Özkök said it was Paul Wolfowitz who had asked the Turkish army to put pressure on the Turkish Parliament.
“I expressed my opinion to the government [when I was asked], but I did not choose the way to pressure [the government] politically,” he said.
Özkök also complained about “black propaganda” circulated against him during his service by some in media circles. Suspect Mustafa Balbay, who is also a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), became Özkök’s target.
“Respected journalist Balbay,” Ökök began, but he went on to criticize Balbay for writing a column on his career without knowing basic information about his life. “It was written that I had lived outside of Turkey for 18 years,” he said. “This is not true, and my resumé can be checked, even on Wikipedia.”