By Lale Sariibrahimoglu

Today's Zaman
April 1 2008

It is no secret that Turkey has for a long time been a "paradise"
for all sorts of organized crime activities, which already threaten
the country's security and stability and which cannot be used as a
bargaining chip in any sort of deal.

I make that comment in response to speculation surrounding recent
calls for compromise made by Turkey's leading NGOs in an attempt to
reduce ongoing political tension due to an indictment to shut down
the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The situation
has been interpreted by many in Ankara to indicate that in return
for discouraging the prosecutors from pursuing the Ergenekon gang
investigations, the AK Party's closure will be dropped from the agenda.

As I was writing my column, the Constitutional Court was debating
whether to proceed with an earlier Supreme Court of Appeals request
for the AK Party's closure on charges of changing the country's
secular character.

Independent of the court's decision, the Turkish political leadership
should continue extending strong backing to prosecutors investigating
gangs, including those who are in charge of the latest probe against
the Ergenekon gang, despite attempts to establish a symmetrical link
between this investigation and the closure case against the AK Party.

Over 40 people, from retired generals to lawyers, journalists
and academics, have been in jail and awaiting trial on charges of
involvement in the Ergenekon gang into which an investigation by an
Ýstanbul prosecutor is now under way. Those arrested are charged with
inciting citizens to an armed uprising against the government and
setting up, being a member of and masterminding a terrorist group

In the latest crackdown, three people from ultranationalist and
anti-European Union weekly Aydýnlýk and its news channel Ulusal
(National) were arrested as part of the Ergenekon investigation while
Workers' Party (ÝP) Chairman Doðu Perincek, whose party runs those
media organizations, was earlier arrested over the same charges.

It is worth giving some more details about other schemes that gangs are
believed to have masterminded in Turkey. For example, retired Gen. Veli
Kucuk has been accused of organizing extra-judicial killings of Kurds
in the 1990s, but never stood trial. His name is also implicated in
the infamous Susurluk case back in the mid-1990s.

Similarly, lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, arrested as part of the Ergenekon
investigation, is known for having initiated legal proceedings
against Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who won the 2006 Nobel Prize for
literature, as well as against ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink,
who was killed early last year in Ýstanbul.

The Ergenekon operations came as part of an investigation that led
to the discovery of hand grenades and bomb detonators as well as
documents in a house in Ýstanbul's Umraniye district last June.

As a matter of fact, since the 1950s Turkey has witnessed numerous
politically motivated assassinations in addition to increasing
ordinary acts of organized crime. But in none of the cases has the
judiciary possessed enough power to finish off the gangs' activities,
also falling short in finding the assassins of many famous Turkish

It is also worth reminding that Perincek, in jail over alleged
involvement in Ergenekon, was responsible for a scandal that occurred
in February 2002, when his weekly Aydýnlýk published a series of
e-mails sent by then-European Commission envoy to Turkey Karen Fogg
to EU officials in Brussels.

Perincek said at the time that he published the messages to prove
Fogg was undermining Turkey's national interests during accession
talks with the EU while his magazine launched a campaign of slander
against some liberal Turkish journalists and diplomats. He was tried
over charges of illegally obtaining and reproducing private data with
the intent of harming others and faced a three-year prison sentence,
but he was acquitted when the charges were dropped on the grounds
that Fogg had not filed a complaint.

Today, those linked to the Ergenekon gang come from every walk of life
and are ultranationalists, anti-European and believe that democratic
reforms have been threatening the state's traditional sovereignty
at the expense of enlarging citizen sovereignty. However the fact
that those ultranationalists who are involved in crimes to meet
their objective of continuing state sovereignty and preserving the
power of anachronistic forces at the expense of liberties, requires
urgent attention and should not be used as a bargaining chip at all
in any deal.

Turkey has no way out if it fails to settle scores with gangs.