ANKARA: Coup Plot Against Ecevit Sparks Debate


Zaman Online
July 18 2008

Relying on parts of the Ergenekon indictment leaked to the press,
newspapers reported yesterday that the Ergenekon gang, a crime network
suspected of plotting to topple the ruling Justice and Development
Party (AK Party), tried to overthrow the coalition government of the
late Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who served between 1999 and 2002.

The leader of Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (DSP), Zeki Sezer,
also confirmed that several retired senior generals at the time had
"expressed their wish" to see Ecevit resign. Although there is now
a general consensus that the generals put some pressure on Ecevit to
urge him to resign, it is a matter of discussion whether this was a
coup attempt and whether those generals had any links to Ergenekon.

Radikal’s Murat Yetkin, a journalist who closely followed the Ecevit
government, admits that high-ranking military officers pressured the
late prime minister in 2001 to resign; however, he says he has no idea
whether those generals were part of the Ergenekon organization. "I
personally witnessed them meddling in politics, though it was not
tantamount to a military coup," says Yetkin. Since the full text of
the Ergenekon indictment has not yet been made public, he says it
is hard to know whether allegations about a coup attempt against
Ecevit’s government are this pressure he witnessed or something
entirely different. According to Yetkin, Ecevit did not take any
action against these military officers back then and that his lack
of influence in the decisions of the Supreme Military Council (YAÅ~^)
of 2002 proves as much.

Sabah’s Ergun Babahan complains that those who defend Ergenekon today
by downplaying the allegations walked hand in hand in the past to
unseat Ecevit. Among those who took part in this plot at that time,
he says, were some commanders, retired generals, leading figures
in the business sector and, inevitably, the media. "They headlined
reckless news about Ecevit’s health after he was hospitalized [in
an attempt to have him resign]," says Babahan, adding that the same
circles are at work again today since they have rolled up their
sleeves and are trying to trivialize the Ergenekon case and remove
it from Turkey’s agenda. The reason these circles are uneasy with the
Ergenekon investigation, in his view, is their concern that their real
face will come to light as a result of this operation. "They want to
make you believe that a group of idle youth killed Turkish-Armenian
journalist Hrant Dink and an attack against the Council of State in
2006 [which left a senior judge dead] was the work of a religious
fundamentalist who wanted to protest a ban on Muslim headscarves. They
also suggest that the bombs [which had the same serial number as
those belonging to the Ergenekon gang] hurled at the Cumhuriyet
newspaper were accidentally thrown there. They do not want to ask
for an accounting of these incidents because they were personally
involved in them. Let them first say what they did to Ecevit, and
then we can talk about today," says Babahan.

Vatan daily’s Bilal Cetin asked Husamettin Ozkan, the deputy prime
minister in Ecevit’s government and a close ally of Ecevit, about
a coup attempt against Ecevit’s government in which Ozkan allegedly
demanded to take over the prime ministry from Ecevit. Cetin, quoting
Ozkan, says: "Never, ever. None of the commanders of the time even
made such an implication. These allegations were only brought forward
by Radikal columnist Murat Yetkin. I heard this only from him. Other
than this, no one said anything to me about it." Cetin, referring
to what Yetkin wrote, says it is very obvious that the commanders of
the time had voiced wishes to see Ecevit resign; however, it is not
certain whether this was tantamount to a coup attempt.