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The following article by Ertuğrul Mavioğlu appeared in Radikal İki on 6 March 2011. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

Zero Tolerance for Journalists

Ertuğrul Mavioğlu

The Ergenekon investigation started out as a deep state operation. Those who had until now remained untouched were touched and half-settled scores from the Susurluk period were settled. The arresting and detaining of persons like Veli Küçük and İbrahim Şahin in the wake of this operation, the seizure of bombs and guns from former special mobilisation team members, excavations resulting in the discovery of arms caches or even the unearthing of the JİTEM [Gendarmerie Intelligence and Anti-Terror Wing] archive gave everybody the impression, not only that this was a huge operation, but also that that the day of reckoning was dawning on those who had for years turned the country into hell with murders by unknown assailants.

However, the investigation somehow did not turn into a reckoning with the deep state and finally the public prosecutors downgraded Ergenekon to an investigation into a specific coup. From here on, things moved in a different direction. Under the guise of the successive waves of Ergenekon, the homes of respected individuals like Türkan Saylan were raided and individuals such as Tijen Mergen, coordinator of the “Father, send me to school” campaign, were detained. This was not all; people who were known for their socialist past began to be included in dribs and drabs in the operation. It finally became apparent that the aim, rather than reckoning with the “deep state” and liquidating the counter-guerilla movement, was to intimidate and terrify those who in whatever guise stood in opposition and, if they had organisations, to break these up. In order to understand why today Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener have been arrested, it may perhaps be necessary to go back a few months and provide a brief answer to the question of why Hanefi Avcı was arrested. Although there is not the slightest degree of resemblance between Ahmet Şık and Hanefi Avcı in terms either of their positions or outlooks, you will see that they resemble one another in one small respect: both of them are accused of the very thing that they have spent most of their lives opposing!

Hanefi Avcı was not detained for torturing all who appeared before him during his spells of duty with the anti-terror branches, for torturing Ali Uygur to death in Mersin or for slaughtering Bedri Yağan and his five associates in an extrajudicial killing in Kartal on 6 March 1993. Avcı has been accused of something that he has opposed for the whole of his life and those who are investigating him have alleged that Avcı is a revolutionary. The case against him is like a joke: aiding and abetting an organisation named the Revolutionary Headquarters! Irrespective of the accusations that are levelled against him, is it not an open secret that Hanefi Avcı was taken into custody for writing the book The Simons living on the Golden Horn in which he describes the Fethullah Gülen community’s organisation within the police force?

An irony of fate
Now Ahmet Şık is the target. What a peculiar irony of fate it is that Ahmet Şık has been detained for writing a book in opposition to Fethullah Gülen at the behest of the deep state, which he has opposed all of his life and about which he has written countless articles and books. Ever since the Ergenekon operations started to target everyone, regardless of their involvement, a sentence did the rounds whose author I knew to be Ahmet Şık: “One day, everyone will taste Ergenekon.” Those who are well acquainted with him know this quip to be a joke made by Ahmet Şık based on those sinister words inscribed on the huge gate to Karacaahmet Cemetery. Now this joke has come true and they have given Ahmet a taste of Ergenekon.

It is now most tedious to have to say of Ahmet, with whom I have written books and with whom I have authored several news reports, that, “He is not part of Ergenekon.” Since the thought does not even occur to me that Ahmet could be accused of involvement in Ergenekon I am lost for any kind of ready-made response. But it seems that I need to explain this since there are those who do not know that this straitjacket that is being prepared for him will never fit on his shoulders.

Who is Ahmet Şık?
Ahmet Şık is a journalism graduate. He went to college, in other words. He writes good reports and takes good photographs. He set out at a young age and has experience of working for newspapers without two pennies to rub together and not even having a fixed position.

Many times he has been unjustly fired from newspapers, but never has he abandoned the fight for his rights. Ahmet Şık has taken an interest in social affairs ever since he took up journalism. If you examine his archive you will not find even one article about flowers or insects. Ahmet Şık is a journalist who has devoted his career to the deep state, counter-guerrilla movement, acts of unknown assailants, extrajudicial killings, people missing in custody, torture, prison operations – human rights, in short. For just this reason he has been marked down as an “opposition journalist” in every black report of uncertain origin.

What do you mean?
Ahmet Şık is an opponent of coups. There are those who are privileged to know that he played a part in the publishing of Özden Örnek’s “coup diaries” that arguably provided the impetus for the Ergenekon operations and also led to the closing of Nokta Magazine. This is not all; reports that he wrote at the time of Susurluk played an important role in exposing the deep state. The book Kırk Katır Kırk Satır (Between a Rock and a Hard Place), which we wrote together, descibes and questions the biggest shortcomings of the Ergenekon operations: Why do you not go after the deep state, the counter-guerilla movement or JİTEM, even though you possess so much evidence? Is it this same Ahmet Şık who now stands accused of being the man of the deep state, which he has opposed for his entire life and helped to expose, or involvement in Ergenekon? This question certainly has a funny side to it, even if we are not laughing. But it also has a tragic side for everyone living in this country. According to a statement by his lawyers after Ahmet Şık’s arrest, he was working on a book that he was going to name İmam Ordusu (The Prayer Leader Army). And this book was “seized” on Oda TV’s computers in the past few weeks. The book describes the Fethullah Gülen community’s organisation within the police and, not confining itself to this, describes the community’s attitudes at various turning points such as 12 September, Susurluk and 28 February. Within the past week we have already had more than a taste of what is in store for Ahmet. Even before this investigation has commenced, a campaign, whose source is beyond all doubt the police, to blacken his name has been launched on web sites and in newspapers. Ahmet has tried to respond to this. I know that in many places the scream that Ahmet has tried to make ring out has been stifled. Are these things perhaps an attempt to give legitimacy to a huge disgrace that will shortly be committed? Perhaps one should ask of the public prosecutor who ordered Ahmet’s arrest, of the police who conducted the arrest and search and of the judge who permitted all of these practices: Are you his master’s voice?

Lessons for the country
In the early hours of 3 March, a journalist’s home was violated. Now I cannot help but ask what kind of country we live in where a book that has not yet been published can be the subject of an investigation. This will be branded as “democracy” or an “opening” and packaged for our consumption. If we are not to call this totalitarianism, what are we to call it? Are we to refrain from branding the perpetrators with being a “civil dictatorship” and bear it all with the refrain that those who fight coupists are beyond reproach? What kind of country do we live in when a journalist who has devoted his life to struggling against the deep state, as if it were not enough that he first was prevented from practicing his profession, now faces attempts to associate his name with those involved in the deep state, Ergenekon and Susurluk? What kind of country do we live in when a journalist shouts, “Whoever lays a finger on Fethullah Gülen is doomed” as he is being arrested and is there anybody who does not think that this may be true?


By way of postscript, I add the following that comes from

Journalist Ahmet Şık, detained on the allegation of being a member of the Ergenekon terror organisation, is also being prosecuted for “breaching the secrecy of the investigation” in the book named Ergenekon'u Anlama Kılavuzu; 40 Katır 40 Satır [Guide to Making Sense of Ergenekon: Between a Rock and a Hard Place], which he wrote together with Ertuğrul Mavioğlu.

Şık, who last week was not brought to trial where the substantive hearing was to be held on Thursday (14 April) on the grounds that there was no shuttle vehicle at the prison, has sent the text of the speech he was to make had he attended the hearing to bianet.

“The judicial system draws life from madhouse legislation”

Şık in his defence draws attention to the strange way that he is, on the one hand, being prosecuted on account of a book in which he describes the nature of the deep state referred to as Ergenekon and, on the other, is accused of being a member of this structure that he has tried to play a part in deciphering.

* The only thing that I can say with reference to my being one of the accused in this trial is that it bears witness that the Turkish judicial system draws life from madhouse legislation.

* The result is that I am one of the accused in this trial for authoring a book that attempts to describe the nature of the deep state tradition, which in the past was given names such as counterguerilla, gladio, special war department and Susurluk, and in the past few years has been called Ergenekon.

*The title of our book is 40 Katır 40 Satır, because we encounter a series of investigations and lawsuits in which the attempt is made to convince public opinion that the Turkish deep state is under investigation, but is distanced by 50 years from the claim to this effect.

I ask myself “Can this be true?”

*The attempt is being made, in general through the partisan media organs, and specifically those characterised as pro-[Fethullah Gülen’s] community, to create the perception that in Turkey the deep state has been made the object of investigation. However, in correctly and accurately analyzing the process, we have attempted in our book to say that this is not true.

*Furthermore, we have made this point in taking the Ergenekon investigation seriously and stressing that the investigating authorities should also to take it seriously. We have tried to give pointers in this direction.

*We have said that, if Turkey wishes to rid itself of the deep state, the points that we have included in our book must be examined thoroughly.

*Let us turn to these. We have said that attention must be devoted, alongside events and facts that have come to a head in recent years like JİTEM, Susurluk and Şemdinli, to the actors in the war that has been waged for over 30 years in the Kurdish provinces and also called for the investigation to cover, alongside all unfulfilled coup plans, events, facts and persons that paved the way for the 12 September coup, which came about and with all of its institutions blotted out our lives and robbed us of our future. We have left a reminder not to forget the perpetrators of the 28 February coup.

*Did we make a mistake? If we refer to the prosecutor who has put us in the dock, it would appear so. We have apparently suddenly been prosecuted with the attitude “Who are you to give us advice?” or “You are trying to upset our political plans.”

*In order to conceal the true purpose, the reason is touted of breaching the secrecy of the investigation. And we supposedly did this by making public an investigation that was launched two weeks after the publication of our book.

*I merely ask myself “Can this be true?” With the reason why I ask myself this question as clear as daylight and it being abundantly apparent that we should have been acquitted as of the very first hearing, today we come before you for the third time.

“You are confused, aren’t you? So am I.”

*This is certainly not all that is strange. Today I was brought before you from the prison where I am in custody by a shuttle bus. As everybody knows, I stand accused of being a member of the Ergenekon organisation. There is supposedly highly secret evidence to which I and my lawyers are not yet privy, and that we are not permitted to be privy to.

*We most certainly do not believe this. It is abundantly clear that I am incapable of standing side by side with a mentality that I oppose and have spoken of at all times not only in the articles that have borne my signature over my 20 year professional life but also with my political stance that I have described as socialist.

*By now everyone has learned that the reason for my detention is again a book, a study in which I have described a well-known religious community’s organisation within the police.

*While, on the one hand, I am prosecuted on account of a book that describes what kind of thing the deep state, known as Ergenekon, is, on the other hand, I stand accused of being a member of this structure that I have tried to play a part in deciphering. You are confused, aren’t you? So am I.

“I will not wear the straightjacket that attempts are being made to place on me”

*In attempting to explain this contradiction my only comment is that Turkey needs prosecutors who read and research, have accumulated intellectual and political knowledge and, most importantly, are capable of understanding what they read and possess analytical intelligence.

*I suspect that the members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) must also, through a government decision, have become aware of this finding of mine given that a certain prosecutor has been relieved of his duties. Perhaps henceforth the Ergenekon and related investigations will move onto a firm legal footing and it will really be possible to investigate the Turkish deep state.

*I will not wear the straightjacket that attempts are being made to place on me by persons who call themselves democratic and, unfortunately, attempt to make gains, not through living up to the ability to be democratic, but through bootlicking, and for just this reason have found a place for themselves in certain newspapers.

*Guided by the points I have raised, everybody needs to answer the following question: either the allegation on account of which I now stand before you that I deciphered Ergenekon, or the allegation that makes me part of Ergenekon, lacks legal foundation. If you ask me, neither of them has any connection with the law.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton