They’ve certainly done it before. This story from the English edition of national newspaper Hürriyet appears to suggest they may be seeking to do it again:
The original copy of a document allegedly prepared by military personnel to topple Turkey’s ruling government is likely to be authentic according to an initial analysis, the prime minister said Saturday.
The analysis was done when the document reached the prosecutor’s office. “The document is now in the hands of justice. We will do exactly what the courts ask of us. We will closely monitor developments,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters Saturday aboard a plane to Pakistan. “The armed forces cannot accept such a blemish [if the allegations are proved to be true].”
Earlier in June, the daily Taraf [newspaper] published an alleged military plan to take down the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, alongside a religious movement lead by Fethullah Gülen. The document was recovered during a search conducted at the office of a suspect detained in the controversial Ergenekon probe and bore the signature of Col. Dursun Çiçek.
It was initially claimed that the General Staff prepared the document, but the General Staff strongly rejected the allegations. The AKP filed a petition with the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office to pursue the matter.
Military prosecutors requested the document from the Ergenekon prosecutors and launched an investigation into the claims, concluding that the document was not prepared by any of its units. The military said its investigation revealed that the document outlining the plan was merely a copy and that an original was needed in order to reach a conclusion. It said there was no need for the military to investigate Çiçek due to lack of evidence.
Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ said after the military investigation that the document was prepared by those who sought to slander the Turkish military, describing the document as “a piece of paper.” He said it was impossible to reach a conclusion without the original document.
Çiçek, who was accused of being a member of the alleged Ergenekon organization, was detained shortly after testifying to the Ergenekon prosecutors. Çiçek was later released as a result of a court decision that said the photocopy could not be accepted as credible evidence.
Prosecutor denies; PM clarifies
The Turkish media was once more dominated by news of the contested document when reports surfaced a few days ago that a member of the military sent a letter and the original copy of the document, which carried Çiçek’s signature, to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The office is said to have sent the document to a forensics lab for examination, which reportedly confirmed on Wednesday that the signature on the original document was Çicek’s handwriting.
Responding to questions from the press on Friday, Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin said the investigation was confidential and that the office had no such document.
But speaking to the press before his departure to Pakistan on Saturday, Erdoğan said: “The document is now in the hands of justice. The document reached to the prosecutor office with a letter sent by an anonymous military officer. It is stated that it is likely to be the original document. In its report, the forensics lab also confirms this statement. The process is ongoing.”
Military reacts to accusation
The chief of General Staff, meanwhile, reacted harshly to the leak of the alleged original document and report to the media.
“It is very worrisome that developments on the letter and the document took place in the media first, in terms of the authority of the state,” the chief of General Staff said in a written statement, which was posted on the General Staff’s Web site late Saturday.
The statement also emphasized that the tone of the coverage varied widely among different media outlets.
For those unfamiliar with the Turkish situation, a little potted history:
From centuries of being the epicentre of the powerful Ottoman Empire, Turkey was declared a Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Born in Thessaloniki (now part of Greece) in 1881, he is revered in Turkey as the founder of the modern nation.
Emerging as a military hero in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli conflict, he later entered politics – a move which eventually led to the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in October 1923, when Atatürk was elected President.
Sweeping away any trace of Islamic Law over the next few years – and replacing it with a civil code based on the Swiss model, Atatürk was determined to found a modern, Western-facing country that respected human rights and freedoms and promoted a secular outlook, both in terms of education and culture.
For example, the Fez, the small, conical felt hat so beloved of cartoonists, was banned. The Turkish language, formerly expressed in Arabic script, had now to be to be written in Latin (as it still is today). Turks were generally encouraged to dress and act in a western manner.
Turkey’s women were among the world’s first to be granted voting rights-including the right to stand for election in 1928 – well ahead of western countries such as Britain.
Consequently, it is easy to see why post-Caliphate Turkey has always been seen to demonstrate a large degree of exceptionalism, both inside and outside of the Muslim world.
The guardians of this secular system have been, from the beginning, Turkey’s powerful military. They perceive themselves (and are perceived) as the guarantors of Atatürk’s principles. They have acted to remove the government four times: in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997, when they felt these principles to be at risk.
In 2002, the AK party was elected to power with 47% of the vote – a victory largely secured by the Islamist-leaning section of the electorate (Turkey is sharply polarised between Islamists and Secularists), who sympathised with leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s devout religious beliefs and were angered by his treatment in a brush with the law in 1997; when, as Istanbul’s mayor, he was briefly imprisoned for reciting an Islamist poem at a public political meeting.
It is not surprising, then, against this background, that the military have been keeping a close eye on Erdoğan and his party – there have already been a couple of tense moments within in the last couple of years of the AKP tenure, when military intervention was seen as a distinct possibility.
However, this time is a little different. Erdoğan has, over the past year or so, been making ever more belligerent and Islamist noises to the West – particularly towards Israel, with whom, almost uniquely in the Muslim world, it has hitherto enjoyed long-standing diplomatic, military and trade relations.
In recent months, Erdoğan’s outbursts have included:
- Storming out of a public, televised debate in Davos, accusing former Israeli Prime minister Shimon Peres of being a murderer and blasting Israel for its Cast Lead defensive operation in Gaza of late 2008-early 2009.
- Refusing Israel permission to take part in a military exercise it was hosting on behalf of NATO. The subsequent row led to the US pulling out in protest at Turkey’s stance and the exercise was cancelled
- Being linked with a government move to land a crippling and unpayable US $3.3 billion fine to a large Turkish media group critical of the Turkish administration
- Making anti-Semitic remarks in a speech last week to university students in Istanbul, where he spoke of how “Jews are able to see to it that their money be fruitful and multiplies”.
Are we witnessing the shedding of any pretence of modernity and the abandonment of Turkey’s ambitions of EU membership, as the Islamist wolf sheds its secular sheep’s clothing? Or is Erdoğan merely playing to the Muslim gallery?
“There is no doubt he is our friend. We have kept very good relations, and we have had no difficulty at all.”- Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Ahmadinejad this week
His popularity in the Middle East (where, at least in places, Turkey is sometimes viewed as somewhat of a ‘traitor’ to the West), has certainly surged this year.
Either way, it is clear that none of this is escaping the watchful eyes of the Generals.
[Source: Hürriyet Daily News]
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