INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Turkey: Tgs Feeling Ergenekon Squeeze

Published: Tue 3 Nov 2009 03:03 PM
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id: 232809
date: 11/3/2009 15:56
refid: 09ANKARA1582
origin: Embassy Ankara
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09ANKARA1083
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001582
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/SE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2019
TAGS: PGOV PINR TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: TGS FEELING ERGENEKON SQUEEZE
REF: ANKARA 1083
Classified By: Ambassador James Jeffrey for reasons 1.4(b,d)
1. (C) Summary: Investigations into the Ergenekon case took
a nasty turn with the revelation of what purports to be an
original of the alleged military-penned anti-government
"Action Plan," essentially a roadmap for bringing down the
government and the Islamist Fethullah Gulen organization.
The ensuing public outcry has put the military back on the
defensive, prompting statements from the TGS trying to play
down the issue and assure the public that it is investigating
the new claims. Pressure on the TGS is mounting as actively
serving members of the military are summoned for questioning.
Meanwhile, the timing of the document's leak has further
raised questions about the independence of the Ergenekon
prosecutors. End Summary.
2. (SBU) The controversy surrounding an alleged military
"Action Plan Against Fundamentalism" -- enumerating steps to
undermine both the governing Justice and Development Party
(AKP) and the Fethullah Gulen religious order -- reemerged on
October 23, with the publication in Taraf newspaper of a
letter, allegedly from a military officer to the prosecutor's
office, purporting to contain an original copy of the plan.
The text of the letter claims that then-Deputy Chief of the
TGS, Hasan Igsiz, had ordered the drafting of the plan, that
TGS Chief Ilker Basbug was aware of the project, and that the
TGS had covered up its involvement during its investigation
into the alleged plan in June. Ergenekon prosecutor Zekeria
Oz has reportedly summoned Colonel Dursun Cicek, the alleged
author of the plan, and eight other active-duty soldiers who
are accused of destroying evidence of military involvement in
its drafting, for questioning.
3. (C) In the wake of the new document's release, the
military is back on the defensive. Basbug met with Erdogan
on October 29 in what was billed as a routine weekly meeting
to discuss the case. The meeting was anything but routine:
it was held on Republic Day -- Turkey's most important
secular holiday -- and was uncharacteristically followed by a
press statement which stressed that the letter is merely
evidence in support of an allegation and should be treated as
such while the case is ongoing. Before the meeting, the
military had issued two statements to the press, one
criticizing the leaks of court evidence to the press and the
other announcing that military prosecutors had begun an
investigation concerning the new evidence and reiterating the
findings of military prosecutors in June to the effect that
the then-available documents were of dubious quality.
4. (SBU) The government appears to be playing good cop/bad
cop concerning the new developments in the case. Deputy
Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has gone on the offensive,
demanding the resignation from the army of all suspects tied
to the plot who are still in active service. Meanwhile,
Prime Minister Erdogan has taken a higher road, calling
accusations against the military unacceptable and declaring
that the accusers should also testify in court.
5. (C) Comment: The first point to note here is that we are
talking about the original piece of paper with the action
plan -- from which, presumably, the copy, which hit the
street several months ago, was made. The fact that there is
now an original in the hands of the authorities does not
prove -- as yet -- that the document is authentic or a fake.
The main significance of an original (aside from the fact
that, if authentic, it indicates "moles" within the TGS
trying to discredit their own organization) is that it will
provide a forensics basis (watermarks, type of paper,
specific printer attributes) to aid the investigation.
6. (C) Comment (cont.): Nonetheless, with the military
having previously dismissed the first copy of the "Action
Plan" documents as "mere bits of paper," the claim that the
original document has been uncovered and sent to the
prosecutor's office ratchets up the pressure. If the courts
find the document to be admissible evidence (whether rightly
ANKARA 00001582 002 OF 002
or wrongly), we will likely see calls for the resignation of
increasingly higher-ranking military officials suspected of
approving the alleged cover-up. Calls for resignation of
those involved -- not just from DPM Arinc but also among
pundits, even respectable independent ones, such as Fikret
Bila -- have already begun, and could quickly move up the
chain of command as suspicion of a cover-up builds along with
increasing doubt of military probity. This would confirm in
the minds of Turkey's copious conspiracy theorists that
Ergenekon is synonymous with Turkey's miiltary-bureaucratic
complex.
7. (C) Comment (cont.): The press is also rife with
speculation that the timing of the leaked evidence is too
neat to be coincidental. Prime Minister Erdogan has too
often taken aim at an easy target to deflect negative public
opinion from a controversial policy. Israel has been the
standard whipping-boy in this regard. Some journalists are
speculating that the Ergenekon trial may be taking on the
role of convenient bugbear when AKP falls afoul of public
opinion. The "original document" leak came on the heels of a
Kurdish nationalist upswell surrounding the return to Turkey
from Iraq of PKK members under the guise of a "peace
delegation, causing a collective drop of support for AKP
among nationalists. The new developments related to the
"Action Plan" have neatly supplanted the debate over the
returnees in the news. The uncanny timing of the new
evidence reinforces allegations -- including a comprehensive
report on the case by British scholar Gareth Jenkins and
speculation about an unseemly row in the Supreme Board of
Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) (REFTEL) -- that the Ergenekon
case has been thoroughly politicized.
JEFFREY
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