Public Prosecutor Suleyman Aydin has called for an investigation into allegations of a 2004 plot to topple Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to a report in the Islamist daily Zaman (June 4).
In March 2007 the weekly news magazine Nokta published what it claimed were extracts from a diary by Admiral Ozden Ornek, the commander of the Turkish navy from 2003 to 2005. The diary appeared to detail the unsuccessful attempts by Ornek in 2004 to persuade other members of the Turkish high command to stage a coup, codenamed “Blonde Girl,” against the AKP, which had first come to power in the November 2002 general election. The writer of the diary clearly regarded the AKP as having a long-term radical Islamist agenda and severely criticized General Hilmi Ozkok, who served as chief of the Turkish General Staff (TGS) from 2002 to 2006, for not countering the perceived threat posed by the government to the principle of secularism enshrined in the Turkish constitution. The diaries also alleged that after the writer’s failure to secure enough support for “Blonde Girl,” the then Gendarmerie Commander Sener Eruygur came up with a coup plan of his own, codenamed “Moonlight” (Nokta, March 29-April 4, 2007).
The allegations were vigorously refuted by Ornek, who not only denied that he was the author of the diary published in Nokta but sued the magazine’s editor, Alper Gormus, for “insult and defamation.”
On April 5, 2007, as Turkey was swept by a series of mass public protests against the AKP’s plans to appoint one of its leading members to the presidency, Nokta published an article implying that the demonstrations were being coordinated by the TGS. The military prosecutor responded by issuing a search warrant for the Nokta offices in Istanbul. Over a period of three days, from April 13 to 15, 2007, all of the magazine’s archives and computer disks were examined and copied. On April 21, 2007, Gormus announced that Ayhan Durgun, the owner of Nokta, had decided to stop publishing the magazine. It has remained closed ever since.
On April 11 Gormus was acquitted by an Istanbul court of insulting and defaming Ornek, but the judge refused to allow the defense to present a report that they claimed had been prepared by the police. They claimed that this report would prove that the documents on which they had based the diary extracts published in March 2007 had been written on Ornek’s computer. The judge also dismissed as irrelevant an application to order a judicial investigation into whether members of the Turkish high command had been planning to stage a coup in 2004. “Attempting to stage a coup is a crime,” protested Gormus. “I want the right to prove my claim” (NTV, Radikal, April 12). But he now appears skeptical about whether Aydin will succeed in taking the case to the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals (Today’s Zaman, June 5).
The allegations have been a major embarrassment to the TGS and a gift to its Islamist opponents, who have used the diary extracts to support their contention that the military as an institution is inherently anti-democratic and perpetually plotting to undermine the civilian administration and seize power.
There is little doubt that regardless of whether it is authentic, the diary does accurately reflect both the impatience among many in the high command at Ozkok’s refusal to be more assertive with the AKP and some of the debates that occurred in the TGS about how to respond to the AKP’s coming to power. Yet, as even the extracts published in Nokta make clear, if there were those who advocated staging a coup, they were in a minority; and ultimately their plans were frustrated not by the civilian authorities but by their failure to enlist the support of their colleagues in the high command.
How the diary, whether genuine or fabricated, found its way into the hands of Nokta remains unclear. It appears to have been given to the magazine by Turks living in the United States. How they acquired it has yet to be determined. The assumption among those close to the military is that the diary was clandestinely obtained by followers of the exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. The military has long suspected the Gulen movement of trying to infiltrate the Turkish officer corps as part of a long-term strategy to soften its resistance to any changes to the current interpretation of secularism in Turkey.
Such accusations have been rejected by members of Gulen movement. They also argue that in the case of the diaries published in Nokta, what really matters is not how they came into the public domain but whether they accurately report a plot to overthrow the democratically elected government. Nevertheless, the newspapers and television channels controlled by Gulen’s followers are frequently openly hostile to the Turkish military. It is probably no coincidence that the latest report claiming that Aydin has called for an investigation into the diaries was published in Zaman, which is the Gulen movement’s flagship newspaper.