ISTANBUL - After conducting an investigation, the Turkish military declares that the alleged plan to dismantle the AKP as part of an effort to fight fundamentalism and stop religious movements is a fabrication. Meanwhile, politicians and observers express conflicting levels of trust in the army’s statements about the document
"In line with the evidence we received in the investigation, we have concluded that no units of the General Staff prepared the alleged document," the General Staff said in its statement Monday morning, adding that an investigation to understand whether the document is fake was ongoing. The document bears the signature of an on-duty colonel who has been accused of preparing a memorandum keeping records on many non-governmental organizations.
The General Staff launched its investigation last week after daily Taraf led with a story on an alleged clandestine action plan targeting the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the religious "Gülen movement." Allegedly drafted by the General Staff’s operations division, the plan is said to have contained efforts to fight fundamentalism and end the activities of religious movements Ğ particularly the AKP and Gülen’s group Ğ that are accused of trying to undermine Turkey’s secular order and establish an Islamic state.
However, ambiguity in military’s statement led the General Staff to make a second statement Monday afternoon emphasizing that the Turkish military depends on the rule of law and the principles of state of law, noting that the investigation was ongoing. The General Staff also said it would not allow personnel who are against the rule of law and democracy to work within the military.
"The alleged document was demanded both by daily Taraf and the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on June 12, but no document has arrived yet. It is deemed that a final conclusion on whether the document is fake or real could solely be reached as a result of the forensic examination of the alleged document, which is expected to be sent to the military prosecutor," said the statement. "If it is proved to be false, the Turkish Security Forces [TSK] will employ every effort to uncover the individual and aim behind the preparation of this document."
AKP officials expressed their dissatisfaction with the TSK's statement Monday, a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his government was looking into the matter and would launch a legal case if necessary.
The AKP’s deputy parliamentary group leader, Bekir Bozdağ, told reporters that the military’s statement should have clearly rejected or accepted the existence of the document.
"It is meaningful that the army did not make any statement for four days," Bozdağ said. "The prosecutors should find those involved in this crime and begin legal proceedings immediately. This investigation is under the mandate of civil prosecutors, not the military. The statement strengthens the doubts."
Columnist Ali Bayramoğlu is among the observers who are also unsatisfied with the statement. "It is not the first time that kind of documents has broken out," he said, noting that since Feb. 28, 1999, the beginning of the process by which the military strongly warned the government against anti-secular activities, which led to the resignation of the government, "tons of memorandums became public, the military denied the documents but neither the public nor us was satisfied. We know that military interventions are done this way, regardless if this document is real or not."
Skeptical of plan
Journalist Saygı Öztürk, on the other hand, is a skeptic not of the military’s statement, but of the alleged plan. "I thought that the military’s statement should be believed," he said. "It is an important institution. It is impossible to underestimate their statement."
When asked about the AKP’s dissatisfaction with the statement, Öztürk said there are question marks about the process of seizing the alleged plan from the Ergenekon suspect.
"According to the court testimony of the suspect, he has had no gun since 1997, but 250 bullets were found in his office," he said. "Although he has all blue flies in his office, these documents are found in a white one. Although he has no CDs in his house, car and office, one CD was confiscated. These are all question marks."
Columnist Mehmet Altan, speaking to private news channel HaberTürk, said the worries were increasing due to the military’s statement being unclear, although the identity of the person who is alleged to have written the document was clear. "There is the signature [of the person] who also prepared a memorandum," he said. "Is it that difficult? They say they ’were convinced’ [that it was not prepared within the military]; this increases the worries."
Military statement not aiding clarification
Journalist Fatih Altaylı disagreed, saying since the military said the document does not belong to the institution, for now there is no choice other than believing that statement. "For instance, an AKP member makes a critical statement, then the AKP says it is not the institutional statement of the party. This is like that," he said.
"Either this document is fake, or it is independent from the chain of command prepared within the military," Altaylı said. If the second option were correct, this would not stay as an individual action of a colonel, Altaylı said.
"It is a terrible mistake that the colonel dared to prepare this. If the military discharges officers because of fundamental religious movements, it should discharge officials because of this too."
The military’s statement has made no contribution toward clarifying the situation, said author Semih Hiçyılmaz. "If this document is true, it is so important. If it is not true, it is again so important," he said. "Those who are struggling for political power are trying to blur the minds of the masses."
Some experts also focused on the fact that, regardless of whether the document is fake or not, it exists. "If this is a slander against the military, it is critical that this slander suits the military. I hope we will see the days that people would say the military will never do that," Altaylı said.
Bayramoğlu agreed that what is of critical importance is establishing whether such a document exists since that is the main concern generated in this situation.