Bu kadarı da fazla - This is just too much

03/07/2011 10:02:11

One of them was Nedim Şener, ameticulousreporter Ibarelyknow yetgenuinelyrespect, for hisexposureof the "deep state" in theinfamousHrant Dink murder case. Another was Ahmet Şık, who is also known for his brave journalism on the criminals within Turkish security forces

"This is unbelievable," said a friend of mine, who is adedicatedhuman rights lawyer, on the phone. "This Ergenekon thing has gone out of control."

Facts andexcesses

In fact, that was mysensefor a while. Unlike most Kemalists, I do not think that the Ergenekon case, the most controversial trial of recent Turkish history, is a political operation "tocrack downonPatriot." Unlike foreign journalists such Gareth Jenkins, I also do not think that "fantasy" is what really lies behind much of the case. Iratherbelieve that mostsuspectsinvolved in the Ergenekon trial were reallycravingandschemingfor a militarycoupagainst the elected government. But that does not blind me from the excesses of the investigation, which seem to haveskyrocketedthis week.

Let meelaboratea bit. Those who are not yetinitiatedto Turkey might find itbizarrethat any journalist can ever be a suspect for a military coup scheme. But historysuggestsotherwise. The two military coups thattargetedaparticularpolitical line, those of May 27, 1960, and Feb. 28, 1997, were carried out with the active support of the media. Both of these coupsoverthrewgovernments that were found too pro-Islamic, or not Kemalist enough, and the Kemalist-minded media supported themrigorouslythrough black propaganda. Especially in thelattercase, the "post-modern coup" of 1997, the generals and their media yes-men worked in perfect harmony, with false stories created in thebarracksand promoted in the headlines.

When the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power in late 2002, the same coalition felt uneasy once again. As the AKP proved to beresilientto the military'sdictates, and dared to disobey the generals who saw themselves as theultimateowners of the state, the Kemalist anger grew. So, "meetings" began between generals, and some of their civilian friends, which included journalists, on how to overthrow the AKP. We know this clearly from the electronic diaries and phone conversations of the Ergenekon suspects, which the police were closely monitoring.

According to the Ergenekon prosecutors, this coalition even planned some killings and bombings, such as the shoot out at the Council of State and the bombing of daily Cumhuriyet, to hit these secular targets and then put the blame on the "Islamists."

The two iconic journalists who have been Ergenekon suspects since 2008, Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan, are on trial for not what they have written, but because they wereconspiringwith the coup-craving generals. That's why I never saw their trial as an attack on press freedom. (I just object to the fact that they are on trial undercustody– a terrible Turkish legal tradition to that I object to in general.)

Yet as the Ergenekonprobeextended, I began to see a risk: Some people seemed to have become suspectsmerelyfor beingpassionatelyanti-AKP and having "connections" with more established suspects – connections that could have been just normal contacts and friendships. That's why I have insisted on making acrucialdistinction: between people who merely have a radical Kemalist ideology, and those who have decided to commit crimes (such as planning a coup) for the sake of that ideology.

When Soner Yalçın and his colleagues were arrested two weeks ago, I re-emphasized that distinction, remainingskepticalabout the charges. But in this recent case, that of Nedim Şeneret al., even the ideological element is not there! And the "evidence"proposed, that files written about or by them are found in Soner Yalçın's computer, is all toounconvincing.

Turkish McCarthyism?

Hence, I agree with the critics who see a risk of "McCarthyism" here – with the important difference being that while the Red Peril of Senator McCarthy was totallydelusional, the Ergenekon threat is real. But exaggerating the threat and over-extending the probe is all too dangerous. It risks not only harming innocent people, but also unintentionallywhitewashingthe real criminals.

Finally, the pro-AKP conservatives who have passionately supported the Ergenekon case must be careful to beprincipled. Their fear of a Kemalistbacklashis most understandable, but they would become like their enemy if they begin to believe that the endjustifythemeans.

Let's make no mistake: the "new Turkey" these conservatives are proud to build must be a country in which everybody, including the Kemalists, is free – and free from fear. Otherwise, there will only be new winners and new losers, instead of the old ones. And the "new Turkish model," so popular in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, will fade all too quickly.


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