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Ergenekon Case and Turkish Army at Snare



Ergenekon Case and Turkish Army at Snare: Is it Law, Politics or Revenge? Introduction There have been numerous big and controversial cases in Turkey for the last five, six years....

Ergenekon Case and Turkish Army at Snare:

Is it Law, Politics or Revenge?


There have been numerous big and controversial cases in Turkey for the last five, six years. The one known as Ergenekon came to an end recently and there were decisions like hundred years, sixty years, forty years and lifelong imprisonment sentences.[1] This is not the end in Turkish Judicial System, there are appeal-objection processes also; however, realist people do not expect radical changes in the final decisions.


Another case known as Balyoz ended up two months ago with shocking verdicts.[2] However, this case is not also the last one and there are many uncompleted “multi-accused” cases whose suspects are accused of espionage, prostitution etc.


The accusation of Ergenekon and Balyoz cases can be summarized as the claims of “overthrowing the elected democratic government”. The list of accused composed of many senior civil-soldier individuals, societal leaders, journalists and academicians. There are lots of names in this list and the only relation between the cases and the accused is “sharp AKP opposition”.[3] This situation falsifies the claims of prosecutors from the beginning and also the judicial base of the bill of indictments is also weak and suspicious. Lots of people in Turkey and in the world believe that these cases serve the aim of liquidation of the opposition and beside they believe that these cases are fictionalized to take the revenge of the militarist interventions in the recent history even in the late Ottoman period, and secular Republic institutions. People who believe that the courts are just and they punished only the military coups are the ones, besides the group of people who wants to believe state will settle account with pro-coup mindset, who support AKP government under the influence of incumbent party’s propaganda. It is not wrong to claim that these two cases “divided Turkey into two in terms of political views”  


The most lymphatic evaluation of these two cases may be this: Yes, an adventurous cadre may have made some preparations for military coup that is not realized; however, there are lots of important soldiers and societal leaders who are at the opposition are attached by fake evidences and suspicious secret witnesses. Thus there was a witch hunt in Turkey, which reminded the McCarthy period in USA.


The cases have been discussed for their judicial context and they will continue to be discussed. There are hundreds of books written on this issue and there will be written more. For this reason we tried to consider the issue with different and interesting contexts below.


Why is not the General of ‘memorandum’ on the list?


Memorandum is described as “missive written and submitted for evoke” in Turkish-Ottoman Turkish dictionaries. It also has the meaning of “warning letter that is written by a state for another state”.[4] However if the meaning of this word is asked to an ordinary citizen he/she will respond as “a warning letter that was given to government by military”. Turkish political history witnessed lots of memorandums; there were military coups after some of them and also in some examples the governments resigned “without a military coup”. World also witnessed another military memorandum in Egypt just recently.[5]


The last memorandum in Turkey was given to incumbent government by Yaşar Büyükanıt on April 27, 2007. Just then there was the presidential election in Turkey and everybody knew that the military was not sympathetic towards the candidate of AKP, Abdullah Gül. In fact, two weeks earlier than the memorandum the chief of defense stated his discontent implicitly and told that military desires “a president who is essentially loyal to secularism not only in words”.[6] In parallel to the technological developments the memorandum was published on Chief of Staff’s web site at midnight and it was stating and illustrating that “secularism and national values are attacked and some alternative religious celebrations are organized instead of national holidays”. The serious dangers that were stated in the General’s memorandum were[7]:


“… It is evident that such kind of behavior and implementations are against the Constitution.”


“… Nowadays, the problem that is featured in the presidential elections centered upon the discussions about secularism… Turkish Military Forces is a party in the discussions and it is the defender of secularism… Turkish Military Forces is against the discussions and negative comments and if it is necessary it will show its reflections explicitly.”


“… The ones who oppose to founder of republic Atatürk’s idea of “How happy is he who says I am a Turk!” are enemies of the republic and they will continue to be so.”


“… Turkish Military Forces maintains unwavering commitment to fulfill its tasks that are given by law in order to protect these features.”


The meaning of these words was explicit and an ordinary Turkish citizen easily foresees that the next announcement would be ‘The Turkish Army seized the control of the country’.


AKP government rose to the challenge wittily and they declared early elections in July. It was easier for AKP that was stronger in the new parliament to make its candidate be elected as the president.


Now it is worth to explain why we told this story: the Chief of Defense who came to the office after General Büyükanıt got life imprisonment by being charged that he is a member of organization called Ergenekon without proving that he planned and attempted to a military coup. On the other hand General Yaşar Büyükanıt who gave memorandum at midnight, besides being sued he was not addressed for any crime. On the contrary, the general who gave memorandum was rewarded with a latest model, luxury and armed car in violation of law and customs. Only this example justifies the ones who think that Ergenekon and Balyoz cases are “malicious liquidation operations”. But why was Yaşar Büyükanıt not sued? There are various humors about it. Some claim that the General was forced to consent for investigations about other soldiers because of that at his secret meeting[8] with Prime Minister some documents about his and his wife’s corruption and audio and video recordings about their private lives were presented to him[9]. Even there were claims that while the retired and active duty officers were being arrested he testified against his brothers in arms as a secret witness.


Turkish Army: Victim of What?


It is not a secret that Turkish army has Kemalist secular traditions. Thus AKP’s, who does not hide that they are against both Kemalism and the idea of secular state, efforts to weaken army by courts, are not surprising. However, if this is an operation we can look for broader global goals besides AKP’s will. Greater Middle East Initiative can be an example[10]. If Kemalist Turkish Army is a victim of a global liquidation plan, the reason may be this project.


Greater Middle East Initiative plan is a matter of another article on its own, but in this article we will focus only the part which concerns us. The main aim of the project was eliminating the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and replacing them with more democratic and moderate Islamic ones. The developments called “the Arab Spring” are also part of this aim. However, Arab Spring was a huge disappointment. The dictators were eliminated but there were no democratic regimes instead of them. There is also Iran who did not experience the “spring” but should experience it. At this point, is not it reasonable to bugger around the Turkish Army who is against this project from the beginning in order to break its resistance?


Actually there are different logical reasons to bugger around Turkish Army: for example Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) did not approve the request of US army to open a front in the eastern part of Turkey during the last Iraq war. Because of the fiasco known as “Assembly Permit Crisis” thousands of US soldiers were waited at offshore of Mersin with their tons of equipage and they returned back[11] . AKP narrowly escaped the burning anger of President Bush. There were debates about that one of the AKP MPs suggested President Bush “not to sweep this man to the hole, to use him!” regarding the Prime Minister Erdoğan, and President Bush found this pragmatic idea reasonable and accepted it[12]. USA blamed soldiers by believing that if it wanted, Turkish General Staff would be able to make TGNA approve the missive.


Political analysts, make the command that since Turkish Army was not convinced about collaboration to solution of the Cyprus issue that is not solved for years and foundation of Kurdistan in Middle East they experienced this evil of cases.


It is known that the accusations of Balyoz and Ergenekon cases are based to suspicious digital records[13]. The widespread idea is that the unsigned warning letters sent from foreign-based websites, audio and video recordings dating back to the years, and the word files cannot be produced by few electronics specialists in Turkey and this “meal” is “cooked” by foreign professional cadres.  If this idea is considered by the reasons counted above, it comes one step closer to reality.


Reputation of the Military in Turkey: Was There, is There Still?


Both military-based Ergenekon and Balyoz and the espionage and prostitution themed cases are put into word to weaken the reputation of command echelon of Turkish Military inside the public. There are hundreds of retired and active officers that are jailed pending trial or are tried without arrest. The destructive effect of the cases on the command echelon was so huge that finding new officers for making commander to the sea and air forces became very hard. As a natural result of this situation the traditions were broken and the officers that did not manage even one army corps became full generals immediately.


In Turkey, army has always ranked over other institutions in trust ranking. Nowadays, it is a reality that these cases undermined the trust towards army. It will be naive to think that Turkish army’s reputation was destroyed because of the “possibility that it will stage a coup” because the coups that are staged and the raised attempts (there were lots of penalties given to such kind of attempts before) of coups since 1960s have made people got used to notion of coups and it did not result in a loss of public’s confidence/trust in the army. The most important reason of this may be that the military governments have always at least transferred the power back to the democratic parties in a short time period after the coups. In Turkey, surprisingly, Turkish citizens have the perception that “Turkish army stages a coup but they transfer the power to elected government soon”. Indeed after May 1960 coup the free elections were made in October 1961 and after September 1980 coup the elections were held in November 1983. Moreover, some interventions of Turkish Army were realized without taking the power[14].


Of course the military coups are not acceptable practices for democracy, and acceptance and impunity of them cannot be imagined. We can easily realize the pain of victimhood which is created by coups at every section of the society. Thus we do not give these examples to justify the military coups, on the contrary while we are objecting the coups the reason why we wrote this article is that we tried to address that the very important recent cases and the negative propaganda made to create an environment as if army lost its reputation are not correct. Mentioning the truth on time and in a fair manner should be our main responsibility because delayed justice is not true justice.


As the main reason of the loss of reputation for Turkish army, we can state that divisions, mistrust, betrayal and even the “hostility” between the command echelon and senior officers were realized during these cases. People can think in three different ways about Chief of General Staff’s “quite” and “carefree” attitudes. First, all the claims were true and army has no words to say; second, all the claims were wrong but that huge army was so weak to defend itself legally; third, there was grouping at the command echelon and some generals cooperated with the government to liquidate their friends. As it can be realized easily there were three horrible alternatives: if the first alternative is valid the army has become a crime organization; if the second one is valid it is not possible for a Chief of General to defend its country if it is that weak to defend itself; the third one is nothing than betrayal in the military literature.


The commanders were the ones who did not prefer to defend their fellow soldiers by witnessing. Some commanders refused to take responsibility of the command they gave to their subordinates. Some reported their friends by stating that “I was arrested, why were not they?”. Such kind of behavior could not be part of soldier fellowship.


There were also some other things. For example, the evidence bags that were hidden under floor tiles on the second floor of the building in the middle of the military garrison were found by a prosecutor very easily. For example, audio recordings that were taken from a meeting to which only officers attended were sent to journalists in suitcases. These were actions that can only be made by ones who were inside the army. How would an army that cannot hide its meetings from others hide war plans from the enemies?


The commanders whose officers were arrested, accused and took into custody as a member of illegal organization continued in their posts as if “nothing happened” (There were some honorable exceptions to this situation[15] ).


It is worth to refer back to the Chief of Staff who was rewarded with an armed car after his secret meeting with prime minister.


Some also think that another reason of the “languish” of the Turkish Army is the separatist war that is continuing for decades. Indeed there were so many unsuccessful and suspicious operations, and heavy life losses that would not belong to a “disciplined army”[16]


All the events counted above proved the fact that “people who would rely on each other in the battlefield” are proven to be ‘not so reliable’. If there is a loss of reputation, which is not hard to figure out, the reasons of this are the ones counted above.



As a result, it is impossible to claim that the big cases in Turkey serve to law but it is possible to assert they have brought light to all defects of the military structure. By an ironic approach, we can say that “the only benefit of the cases has been this”.


Hıfzı Deveci, Retired Member of the State Supervisory Council, Public Administration Specialist and Author


This publication as follows:

Deveci, Hıfzı (August, 2013), “Ergenekon Case and Turkish Army at Snare Is it Law, Politics or Revenge?”, Vol. II, Issue 6, pp.67-73, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (

[1] To have broader information about the sentences given:;




[3] There are lots of tragicomic examples about the reluctance of accused, one of them is that: a man that is accused of being the cash “box of Ergenkon” died by cancer after few months, his family cannot took his dead body because of poverty. The court could not find any relationship between both the organization and the other accused.


[4] Mustafa Nihat Özön, Ottoman Turkish-Turkish Dictionary, Bilgi Press, Ankara 1971; Türk Dil Kurumu Türkçe Sözlük, Ankara 2005.


[5] Sisi, chief of defense in Egypt, gave 48 hours to President Mursi in order to adjust the situation in Egypt, world waited with bated breath and at the en there was military coup:


[6] In brief, the explanation of General made in his cantonment was as fallowing: … There is no one who do not know our loyalty towards secularism. Everyone knows our precision to this issue. The President that is going to be elected is the chief commander of Turkish Military Forces. For this reason, this concerns us also. I beleive that the elected president will be loyal to essential features of Military forces and Turkish Republic and to secularism essentially not only with words.


[7] For full text of memorandum that was removed from the website of the general staff:


[8] The meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and General Büyükanıt hold in Dolmabahce Office on May 5, 2007.


[9] Such kind of claims put into words lots of the time but they were not proved somehow. General Büyükanıt won 11.000 TL compansiton from the cases against the ones who had such claims about him. Fort he claims about the meeting hold in Dolmabahçe:;


[10] After George W. Bush was elected as president second time this Project again came to agenda. First, it was called Greater Middle East Project then it transformed to Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa. Altuğ GÜNAL, Ege Üni.İ:İ:B:F., Kasım 2009.


[11] The disapproval of missive that gives way to US soldier to enter Iraq from Turkey by TGNA on 01.03.2003 is approved to be the biggest shock in the Turkish-USA relations after 1963-1964 Cyprus Crisis. For a command on this matter:


[12] Cüneyt Zapsu who is one of the leading names of AKP used this words at American Enterprise Institute in the beginning of 2006:


[13] Prof. Dani Rodrik’s website is the one which provides comprehensive information about false evidence and negligence of law:


[14] In the countries where coup tradition is high such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, South America the military the power was taken back from the military governments by other coups.


[15] Nuret Güner the “second man” of the sea forces stated that “I would prefer to resign to be a dishonest man 160 officer of whom were arrested”. It was understood later that even he resigned in 2013  his petition of resignation was delivered to Chief of General Staff in July 2012 but it was not put into operation by them because of their panic about this decision: :;


[16] There is lots of such kind of events. The most important example of this was that there were 33 soldiers permitted to pass without security precautions from a land controlled by PKK killed by PKK on 24.05.1993. Despite the huge negligence in this event there were no investigations about the responsible commanders. To some stations in South East there were attacks by PKK and there were 15-20 soldiers were killed at each attack but even if this was the case General Staff did not take a preventive measure.

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