The lawsuit known by the name “Ergenekon” (1) which has been going on for five years in Turkey is very similar to the lawsuits brought against G. Dimitrov in Leipzig and A. Dreyfus in Paris.
The Nazis set the Reichstag on fire, blaming G. Dimitrov and the opposition, and imprisoned thousands of people including many parliament members and high officials of political parties. They started investigations which went down in history as the “Reichstag Lawsuit” that resulted in extinguishing many democratic rights and freedom. The same method has been used in Turkey with the on-going political trials. In 2006, the Turkish Supreme Court was attacked and a judge was assassinated by radical Islamists due to a verdict passed by the Supreme Court. The court had banned women covering their heads on official duty. The lawsuit after the attack ended with their imprisonment. However, the case was reopened, connected to the Ergenekon Case and the “specially authorized” public prosecutors charged the country’s opposition for the attack the court!
Just as the employment of “secret witnesses” who had previously been convicted of crimes such as rape and burglary in the Dreyfus Case, the testimony of similar personalities comprise the basis of the Ergenekon Case.
For this case:
Over 100 000 telephones were wiretapped;
3000 people were persecuted;
1600 persons were made to give statements;
588 persons were arrested;
And currently 71 persons are being tried as detainees;
7 accused persons died without being able to testify;
7 detainees have developed cancer;
10 detainees are currently being hospitalized for several serious illnesses.
In this case:
The number of pages comprising the indictment is over 17 000;
The supplementary files of the indictment have reached the size of 5 terabytes, which means 9 million pages;
44 “secret witnesses” have testified;
For the first time in the history of Turkish jurisdiction, the same people have testified both as witnesses and defendants;
Over 600 hearings have been held so far, which is the equivalent of 150 years’ criminal hearings.
The outstanding character of the Ergenekon Case is that the political activities of the Workers’ Party (Turkey) and the activities of enlightening the public by the daily newspaper Aydınlık and the TV channel Ulusal Kanal (the National Channel) have been openly put to trial. This means that the political freedom and the right of free speech have been totally disregarded.
The hearings are held in a building within the prison campus in Silivri which is a town 100 km. away from Istanbul, behind the high walls and in the barbed wire seclusion of the prison which destroys the essence of the right of public trial.
The government has positioned itself as one of the two parties of this lawsuit, which is the indicting side. The Prime Minister has openly declared that “he is the prosecutor of this lawsuit”. It is common knowledge that the members of the cabinet including the Minister of Justice have been repeatedly exposing attitudes to canalize and suppress the lawsuit.
The Prime minister and the Minister of Interior have openly declared that they “have established special courts in Silivri” and that they “have been conducting special investigations”.
The chief Judge among the board of judges was immediately replaced after he had cast his vote for the acquittal of most of the accused.
The Silivri trials are a series of hearings which are the open defiance of the law:
1. The number of attorneys for the defence have been unlawfully limited to 3 for each defendant.
2. The meetings of the attorneys and the defendants are recorded and these, along with the notes passed between them have been brought up as evidence against the accused. Even the number of meetings between the attorney and the defendant has been cited as evidence against the defendant.
3. Some attorneys have been banned from representing their clients and have not been allowed to participate in the hearings and court orders have been declared as to the obstruction of the meetings of the attorney with the defendant.
4. The attitude against the attorneys has recently reached the stage of physical violence by calling the police force into the court room to suppress the attorneys, which resulted in physically injuring them.
5. The Turkish Penal Code specifies the area which limits the authorization of each court. Despite this fact, certain “specially authorized courts” located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul issue search warrants for the locations all over the country and the prosecutors of these courts go to other cities to perform judicial activities and hear testimonies outside their spheres of authorization.
6. Some defendants have been punished with being prohibited from the hearings for certain utterances they made during their defence speeches and the hearings have been conducted in their absence.
7. The defence of the accused has been limited in terms of time as well. The time limit of the oral demands by the defendants and their attorneys is 15 minutes per month for each.
8. Moreover, the defence speeches made by the defendants and their attorneys have been made the subject of new lawsuits against the person or the attorney with the claim of affronting the judges or the prosecutors. Many defendants have been sentenced to tens of years of imprisonment as a result of these secondary lawsuits. The Chairman of the Workers’ Party, Mr. Dogu Perincek has been brought to trial more than 10 times and has been sentenced to over 20 years of imprisonment for the speeches he made for his defence in the hearings.
9. Detention should be considered as an exceptional measure only when the defendant’s fleeing or tempering the evidence is a probable possibility. Here it has been used as a weapon of punishment in this and similar political lawsuits. After five years of trail against the Chairman and top officials of a political party, these two reasons cannot be considered plausible.
10. During the stage of inquiry, all the house and office searches have been conducted unlawfully. The Chief Prosecutor in Ankara officially confirmed that the headquarters of the Workers’ Party were searched unlawfully. A public lawsuit was brought against the police chiefs who were present in the search by the academics of the Department of Criminal Law in Ankara University.
It became obvious that some evidence which was claimed to be found in the search was actually planted later by the police. A case in point are the four compact discs claimed to be found in the search of the Workers’ Party headquarters. These CDs do not appear in the official search report and that report lacks the signatures of all the parties present during the search. Despite this fact, these compact discs were cited as evidence both in the initial indictment and later as the Final Pronouncement of the Public Prosecutor.
11. In this lawsuit, the activities of “inquiry” and “prosecution” have been conducted concurrently. As the lawsuit was proceeding on one hand, the police and the prosecutor conducted new parallel inquiries on the same indictment concerning the same defendants. According to the Turkish Penal Code, the prosecutor does not have the right to conduct further inquiry once the initial inquiry has been made and the indictment has been completed and read during the hearings. The reverse means that the trial is being conducted by the police through the Prosecution.
12. Almost all of the documents put forward as evidence has been illegally obtained or concocted. These are unlawful wiretappings or fabricated CD’s. The primary, basic and almost sole “evidence” the Prosecution puts forward is the “Interrogation of Tuncay Guney”(2). The persons interrogating Tuncay Guney are unknown. The interrogation bears no signature or name of any person or institution as its conductor. It does not exist in any official files. Even under these circumstances this interview has been made the foundation of a giant lawsuit.
The illegality of the recording of the interview has been officially affirmed by the board of judges of 13th Criminal Court of Istanbul, who filed a complaint against those unknown persons who conducted the interview.
13. The indictment contains claims which have been affirmed as “untrue” by court rulings and official documents. Nevertheless the Prosecution continues to use them as evidence against the accused. A case in point is the 10 claims made against D. Perincek, Chairman of the Workers’ Party. Although these claims were withdrawn by the Prosecution as “mistakes” after the statements made by the Defence, they were brought forward once more in the Final Pronouncement of the Prosecution.
14. Some evidence, especially the documents in favour of the defendants, has been withheld from the defendants and their attorneys. A typical example is the diagram sketched by the Turkish Intelligence Service based on the interrogation of Tuncay Guney. The defendants and their attorneys could not acquire this piece of evidence for a very long time on the pretext that “the dignity of the people named in the diagram could be tarnished”. In reality, this diagram is the obvious proof of the absurdity of the indictments.
15. The court has refused to hear the defence witnesses and is trying to pronounce judgement without hearing the defence witnesses. Senkal Atasagun, the former Chief of the Turkish Intelligence Service was named as one of the witnesses. Atasagun declared to the press the following: “when the information contained in the Ergenekon Report and diagram reached me, I found it absurd and unbelievable. However, I had to convey it to the relevant authorities because it had been already prepared and I would have been considered taking part in it if I had not passed it to my superiors.”(3)
The court later decided against hearing him.
Mr Sabri Uzun, former Head of the Intelligence Department of the Turkish Police Force for six years, declared to the press in 2010 that he had told the person who brought him the diagram that “the diagram had no legal validity”. It is understood from Sabri Uzun’s statement that the Ergenekon diagram was prepared as a draft in 2001 and was gradually restructured several times until its final form as seen in the indictment of the Ergenekon lawsuit was reached.
Petition to listen to Uzuns statements in the court was also rejected by the judges.
Retired generals who used to command the Military Forces in early 2000’s came to the court voluntarily, to testify and were also refused to be heard.
16. The Court is trying to pronounce the final verdict without listening to the defence witnesses and to rely solely on the testimonies of the 44 undercover witnesses.
17. Political Parties work under the protection of the Constitution. The law provides that the activities of the political parties be followed and controlled and inquired by the Supreme Court. The right to try the political parties falls solely on the Supreme Court. However, what is accused in the Ergenekon trial are the political activities of the Workers’ Party. The Chairman, the General Secretary and the top officials of the Workers’ Party are standing trial for their basic party documents and the decisions taken by their central organs.
This constitutes yet another example how the judicial praxis of these Special Courts breaks constitutional law.
1) Ergenekon is a turkish legend. It describes the mythic land in Central Asia which was where the first Turkish tribe originated and which had to be left behind when it turned to be too small for the growing population. This gave rise to the turkish migration to the West.
2) Tuncay Guney served the Turkish Intelligence Service and worked with Fetullah Gulen, the Islamist figure presently residing in the USA and whose wealth is pronunced in billion US Dollars. He has deep connections all over the world especially tight ones in the Turkish Police Force and the Turkish Judiciary. Tuncay Guney is currently working as a Jewish rabbi in Canada and has declared numerous times, in long-distance interviews that his testimony on the “Ergenekon” issue was taken under physical and psychological torture by the police.
3) The Daily newspapers dated 16, 17, 18 March 2009.