Former top commander admits conspiracies against the government
In his historic testimony in the coup-plot case, former Chief of General Staff Özkök says former force commanders had raised the idea of issuing a memorandum against the AKP government during a military meeting in 2003, but adds that it was not an ‘official’ suggestion
Former Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök broke his silence in the Ergenekon coup-plot case yesterday in Silivri at the 13th Istanbul High Criminal Court, admitting for the first time that there were possible conspiracies against the present government but that they lack seriousness.
In his testimony, Özkök said former force commanders had at the time mentioned the idea of issuing a memorandum against the government during a military meeting brainstorming session, but added that it “was not an official suggestion.”
The historic testimony may be a turning point in a case where 273 suspects, 65 of whom are under arrest and include high-level military officers, civil servants, journalists and academics, are accused of plotting to topple the government from 2003 to 2004.
İlker Başbuğ, another former chief of General Staff who served between 2008 and 2010 and has been accused of being the “chief of a terrorist organization,” sat listening to Özkök’s words in the courtroom from the back felon’s dock.
Başbuğ, who was arrested eight months ago, attended an Ergenekon hearing for the first time in three months to listen to Özkök’s testimony. The former chief of General Staff appeared to have lost weight since the last trial he was seen at. Along with Başbuğ, retired generals Hurşit Tolon and Veli Küçük were also present in the courtroom.
Coup plot slides
Özkök said he acknowledged the existence of the alleged coup plots, nicknamed “Ayışığı” (moonlight) and “Yakamoz” (phosphoresce in the sea), during his term of leadership, but said he did not take any legal action concerning them as he was unsure of their authenticity and seriousness. “In the spring of 2004, I was given a CD that included the presentations of Ayışığı and Yakamoz. I read them, but they could have been disinformation. I did not share this issue even with my seniors. As the chief of General Staff, I had to be cautious. I did not take any action since those documents were not legitimate.” Many people within the Turkish military staff, himself included, felt uncomfortable when the AKP formed a single-party government, Özkök said. “When the AKP came to power, the Turkish Armed Forces staff, including me, had concerns. Taking into consideration the [AKP officials’] statements in the past, we were worried about whether Turkey would roll back to the old days. We began discussing these issues. In the army everyone expresses their opinions even if they think differently from each other, this is normal, but they obey the chief of General Staff’s orders in the end,” he said.
The chief judge handed a roll of papers to Özkök and asked him whether “the schemas on the papers were familiar to him.” The schemas “were possible organizational structures of the alleged terror organization Ergenekon,” the judge stated. Özkök looked at the papers a while and said one of the schemas was one the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief delivered to him in 2003. “I can claim there is a 90 percent chance that this was the same schema that the (MİT) chief presented to me,” Özkök said.
Özkök said the only thing he knew about the alleged terror organization Ergenekon was that schema, which was an unofficial and unrecorded paper. “My only evaluation of that page was that it was incoherent because low-ranking soldiers were in higher positions than the higher ones. That’s why I had sent it back and told them to notify me if they gained anything more serious,” he said. That page was not important enough to be archived, he said. Özkök also said he did not know anything else about Ergenekon. “In my term no action plan was conducted about the Ergenekon organization.”