Today’s Zaman: Gen. Iğsiz given three days to testifyiın propaganda website probe (04 August, 10″0)
A prosecutor who has been investigating several websites set up by the General Staff to back the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) alleged propaganda campaigns against civilian groups on Monday summoned 19 active duty and retired military officers, including 1st Army Corps Commander Gen. Hasan Iğsız, to give testimony as suspects in the Ergenekon probe by Friday.
Ergenekon is a clandestine organization nested within the state and bureaucracy aiming to foment chaos in society, leading to a military takeover.
Prosecutor Zekeriya Öz said in the call, which was marked “urgent,” that suspects, including six retired and 13 active duty officers, should come to testify within three days. If they fail to appear at the courthouse by Friday without any excuse, the prosecutors may obtain a court warrant ordering their apprehension by police force.
The General Staff’s legal counsel, Brig. Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu, is also among the officers who have been summoned to testify as part of the probe.
Öz’s call comes at a time when a critical Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting has been discussing promotions for dozens of military officers. Gen. Iğsız is hoping to be promoted and replace current Land Forces Commander Gen. Işık Koşaner, who is expected to step in as the new chief of General Staff. Gen. Iğsız’s promotion was expected according to prior military practice, but his connection with “black propaganda websites” may prevent his promotion. This year’s YAŞ, which convened on Sunday to discuss the promotion and dismissal of dozens of military officers, is expected to announce its decisions today. Among the active duty officers summoned to testify were: Gen. Iğsız, Vice Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu, Lieut. Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin, Brig. Gen. Çubuklu, Brig. Gen. Mustafa Bakıcı, Col. Orhan Güçlü, Col. Sedat Özüer, Col. Ziya Ülker Göktaş, Col. Dursun Çiçek, Col. Hulusi Gülbahar, Col. Cemal Gökçeoğlu and Capt. Murat Uslukılıç.
The existence of the TSK’s websites was revealed in an e-mail sent by a military officer to a number of newspapers and journalists last year. The officer, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed that the armed forces had established 42 separate websites to back its psychological warfare against civilian groups it deemed “reactionary,” “separatist,” “pro-AK Party” and “anti-TSK.” The TSK also monitored the activities of more than 400 Turkish and foreign language websites. According to a document the officer attached to his letter, the plan against the websites was made at the “Third Information Support Unit” by Col. Gökçeoğlu, Col. Özüer, Col. Göktaş, Col. Çiçek, Col. Gülbahar, Col. Güçlü, Brig. Gen. Bakıcı and Lt. Gen. Mehmet Eröz. The plan was coordinated by Lt. Gen. Pekin, Vice Adm. Otuzbiroğlu, Brig. Gen. Çubuklu and Gen. Hasan Iğsız. The document bore the initials of all those army officers and a note next to the initials of Gen. Iğsız that read: “Submitted to Esteemed Commander.” Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ was also reportedly informed about the plan.
The source who revealed the existence of the websites also indicated in his letter that the TSK’s 42 websites were shut down after they made their way into news stories. “After news reports found their way into the media, these websites were shut down and restructured. They were later re-activated after approval from the junta and the commanding unit of the TSK,” the letter said.
As part of the probe into the websites, five locations have been searched by the police in accordance with a court order. Among the addresses raided late on Monday was Lt. Col. Fatih Koca’s villa in the Başiskele district of the northwestern province of Kocaeli. The comprehensive search lasted six hours under tight security. Koca is on duty at the Naval Supply Support Command in İskenderun, where six soldiers were killed by terrorists in May. Koca was also brought to Kocaeli from İskenderun by plane. There were other raids in Ankara, İzmir and the Gölcük district of Kocaeli. The searches were launched in accordance with a document titled “Hayhay,” which was seized at the house of retired Capt. Hasan Ataman Yıldırım, an Ergenekon suspect. Two other addresses searched in Kocaeli were military lodges, sources said.
Two websites overlap with action plan
According to Ergenekon prosecutors, two of the websites in question have similarities to the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism, a notorious document aimed at undermining the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the faith-based Gülen movement. The plot in question was reportedly drafted by Col. Çiçek and suggests that the TSK made systematic preparations to damage the image of the ruling AK Party government and the Gülen movement in the eyes of the public, to play down the Ergenekon investigation and to garner support for members of the military arrested as part of the investigation.
According to an indictment over the action plan which was accepted by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court in April, two websites –www.irtica.org and www.irtica.net–overlap with the plans and activities mentioned in the action plan and intensively focus on topics that are frequently mentioned in the action plan. The indictment also states that the purpose behind the Internet sites was to win over public opinion by disseminating fabricated information. The websites include news and stories intended to alarm the public about the supposed threat of religious fundamentalism –or reactionaryism –taking hold. The action plan included a plot to have individuals such as Nurettin Veren, a former member of the Gülen community, make statements against the community saying their real purpose was to establish Shariah law in Turkey.
In a press conference in Nov. 2009, Gen. Çubuklu admitted that the General Staff had established such websites. “The TSK has websites established to monitor threatening reactionary and separatist factors within the plans and directives of the Prime Ministry,” he said, adding that a normal “process” had been reported by the media to the public in a “different” language.