TURKEY: 'DEEP STATE' SUSPECTED OF SILENCING WITNESSES

Compass Direct News
http://compassdirect.org/en/display.php?page=lead &lang=en&length=long&idelement=6032
Ju ly 21 2009

Two key figures in Malatya murder trial again fail to show despite
court orders.

MALATYA, Turkey, July 21 (Compass Direct News) - Under the pretext
of recovering from medical treatment he received earlier this month,
a key suspect in the murders of three Christians in southeast Turkey
dodged court for the second time, further stalling the legal process,
prosecuting attorneys said.

Journalist Varol Bulent Aral, one of the suspected "middlemen" who
allegedly incited five young men to brutally murder Turkish Christians
Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske at
the Zirve Publishing Co. in Malatya two years ago, again failed to
show at a hearing on Friday (July 17).

The three Christians were bound and tortured before they were
murdered on April 18, 2007 at the Christian publishing house, where
they worked. Suspects Salih Guler, Cuma Ozdemir, Hamit Ceker, Abuzer
Yildirim and alleged ring-leader Emre Gunaydin were caught trying to
escape from the scene of the crime.

Aral was admitted for mental health treatment a few days after the
last hearing in June and was released from the Adiyaman penitentiary
hospital on July 8. The gendarmerie, however, failed to produce him
in court on Friday (July 17) claiming that he was recovering from
treatment.

Prosecuting attorneys pointed out that the reason the gendarmerie did
not bring him to the June hearing from the penitentiary in Adana,
nearly 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Malatya, was due to lack of
funds - yet the gendarmerie seemed to have no trouble finding funds
to take him for treatment in Adiyaman, which is the same distance
from Adana as is Malatya.

"Last time [in June] they said they couldn't bring him because of
insufficient funds," said prosecuting lawyer Erdal Dogan. "This is
unacceptable... now in the same way they make excuses, saying they
took him to the hospital. It seems they are mocking us, especially
since previous health reports said that he was in good health."

Prosecuting attorneys also pointed out that it was suspicious that
Aral was admitted to the hospital only days after a court order that
he appear at the July 17 hearing.

"It seems to us that they are trying to silence him by making him
evade court," said prosecuting attorney Dogan of the "deep state"
officials that he and his colleagues believe masterminded the murders
of the three Christians. "I truly hope that is not the case."

Charged with high-security cases, the gendarmerie are holding Aral,
but some believe the gendarmerie and its intelligence services are
connected with Turkey's "deep state."

In the last year, nearly 150 people have been arrested in Turkey
under suspicion of being connected to a cabal of retired generals
and politicians called Ergenekon, accused of trying to overthrow
Turkey's Islamic-leaning but secular government. Some key figures
of the Ergenekon case are believed to be behind the Malatya slayings
and the murders of Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro, killed in
the Black Sea coastal town of Trabzon in February 2006, and Armenian
Christian editor Hrant Dink, who was shot in front of the weekly Agos
three months before the slaughter in Malatya.

The Malatya and Ergenekon prosecutors, however, are still researching
links between the murders and have yet to try them jointly.

Aral has been arrested in conjunction with both cases. In a previous
statement, he had complained that retired Gen. Veli Kucuk, who has
also been arrested in connection to Ergenekon, had threatened him about
testifying. Aral testified to the Ergenekon case state judges privately
in May, but the content of his testimony has not been publicized.

Judges have found the phone numbers of ultranationalist lawyer Kemal
Kerincsiz and Sevgi Erenerol, spokesperson for the Turkish Orthodox
Church - a Turkish nationalist denomination - in Aral's personal
phone book. Both figures are accused of playing leading roles in
Ergenekon and spearheaded prosecution of Christians Hakan Tastan and
Turan Topal for speaking to people about their faith.

While in prison, alleged ring-leader Gunaydin testified to the state
prosecutor that Aral had contacted him and instructed him to carry
out the murders. Gunaydin had also testified that Huseyin Yelki,
who worked as a volunteer at the Zirve office, had planned details
of the crime with him.

Yelki is still obligated to appear at every court hearing and continues
to be a suspected middleman. Thus far, however, his testimony has
yielded no clear indication of his role.

Burcu Polat, Gunaydin's girlfriend, also failed to appear in court
on Friday, telling police that she was not ready because she is a
student in Balikesir, in northwest Turkey. The prosecution noted in
court that universities are not in session and requested that the
court find her guilty of not fulfilling her duty to appear in court.

The court again has ordered Aral and Polat to appear in court at the
next hearing on Aug. 21.