Jan 28 2008
Turkey Busts Alleged Murder Network
Monday, Jan. 28, 2008 By PELIN TURGUT/ISTANBUL
Turkey’s Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk might sleep a
little easier tonight – or not. A series of dramatic arrests over the
weekend has laid bare what is alleged to be a shadowy network of
ultra-nationalist killers with connections in high places. Their hit
list allegedly included the famous writer, targeted for speaking out
about Turkey’s patchy treatment of its minorities.
The allegations, widely reported by Turkish newspapers, are certainly
as dark as anything Pamuk ever wrote. Istanbul prosecutors have
arrested 13 people, including a former general and a high-profile
lawyer, on charges of "provoking armed rebellion against the
government". They are suspected of involvement in last year’s string
of nationalist-motivated murders, which cost the lives of prominent
ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and three Christian
missionaries, according to newspapers.
Police picked up the trail that led to the weekend arrests last
summer when they raided a house in a rundown Istanbul district that
revealed a stockpile of weapons and explosives. A number of
low-ranking military officials were subsequently detained. The
military, a powerful behind-the-scenes force in Turkey, weighed in
and a gag order was placed on investigators. Little more was reported
until a dramatic 3 a.m. raid last week on houses across Istanbul, in
which 40 people were detained.
Of those, Veli Kucuk, a retired major general, was allegedly plotting
to kill Pamuk, Turkish newspapers reported. Kucuk is suspected of
running a secret unit within police forces that carried out bombings
and killings for which other groups were widely blamed. Also arrested
was Kemal Kerincsiz, a nationalist lawyer responsible for numerous
cases against Pamuk, Dink and other intellectuals. None of the
suspects have spoken about the charges.
"If they are true, it suggests there are two parallel universes in
Turkey," says Hakan Altinay, director of the Open Society Institute,
a think tank. "There are people who wake up every morning and plan
murders of political opponents, plot coups and how to destabilize the
country," he said.
Most Turks have long suspected the existence of a covert web of
elements within the security forces and bureaucracy who act outside
the law to uphold their own political ends. There is even a household
name for it: the "deep state", referring to a state within the state.
Newspapers have suggested that this network is the Turkish remnant of
Gladio, a Cold War-era program, orchestrated by the U.S. in several
NATO countries, to create a covert paramilitary force to counter
The arrests are a milestone for Turkey: Kucuk is the first general
officer in recent Turkish history to be brought in by police for
questioning, newspapers said.
But the audacity and sheer scope of the allegations raises the
unsettling question of whether the individuals arrested might just be
the tip of the iceberg. "Who gave the orders? Who protected them for
this long?" says Altinay. "We are faced with the possibility that
this network existed. And, even worse, that it might still exist."