Today's Zaman, Turkey
Nov 28 2008

European Parliament wants full disclosure of Ergenekon

The European Parliament has insisted that Turkey should firmly
investigate the shadowy Ergenekon network and this network's
connections within the state, while also urging authorities to take
pains in regards to offering a fair trial to defendants in this case.

The Ergenekon gang, a neo-nationalist group accused of involvement in
plans to stage a violent uprising against the government, was
discovered at the end of an investigation that came upon the heels of
a police raid in June of last year that uncovered an arms depot in a
house in Ä°stanbul's Ã`mraniye district. The prosecutor in
the Ergenekon case has said the gang worked to create disorder and
chaos through divisive and violent acts so that the public would be
willing to accept a military intervention to restore order.

The group is suspected of involvement in the murder of three Christian
missionaries in Malatya in 2007, the 2006 murder of a priest in the
northern city of Trabzon, the murder of ethnic Armenian journalist
Hrant Dink in 2007, a 2006 attack on the Council of State and a
grenade attack on the Cumhuriyet daily in 2006. The 20th session in
the trial of 86 suspects on charges of involvement in Ergenekon was
held yesterday before the 13th High Criminal Court in Ä°stanbul,
with the suspects continuing to provide their defense testimonies.

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The European Parliament "welcomes the beginning of the trial against
those accused of being members of the Ergenekon criminal organization;
encourages the authorities to continue investigations and to fully
uncover the organization's networks which reach into the state
structures; is concerned about reports regarding the treatment of
defendants in this case; urges the Turkish authorities to provide them
with a fair trial and to adhere strictly to the principles of the rule
of law," said a draft report penned by Dutch Christian Democrat
European Parliamentarian Ria Oomen-Ruijten.

The first debate on the draft report, which is expected to be amended
several times before approval by the European Parliament, will be held
on Tuesday, Oomen-Ruijten, who had talks with Turkish leaders in
Ankara earlier this week, told reporters.

The draft includes serious warnings for the Turkish government, which
is harshly criticized for not putting forward "a consistent and
comprehensive program of political reforms, despite its strong

Voicing concern to "see in Turkey, for the third consecutive year, a
continuous slowdown of the reform process," the draft "called on the
Turkish government to prove its political will to continue the reform
process to which it committed itself in 2005."

Another concern highlighted in the draft was the ongoing polarization
within Turkish society and between the main political parties, which
Oomen-Ruijten said that has deepened in the course of 2008 and has
negatively affected the functioning of political institutions and the
process of reforms.

Stressing that political reforms are at the heart of the reform
process, the European Parliament noted that no comprehensive program
of political reforms has been adopted by the government.

Even though it has been almost four years since the EU agreed that
Turkey had sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria related to
democracy and the rule of law and was able to open negotiations for
full membership, talks have stalled due to a perceived slowdown in the
pace of the Turkish government's political reforms.

Under the heading "Fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria; Democracy and
the rule of law," the European Parliament voiced "regrets that the
initial effort to reform comprehensively the constitution resulted in
dispute over the headscarf issue and generated further polarization of
society; calls on the Turkish government to resume its work on a new,
civilian constitution which would place the protection of human rights
and fundamental freedoms at its core, and urges the government to
ensure that political parties and civil society, as well as ethnic and
religious minorities, are closely involved in this constitutive

The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which is facing a
closure case before the Constitutional Court on charges of becoming a
focal point for separatist activities, has also been warned by the
European Parliament, which has asked the party to make clear their
position vis-à-vis the terrorist activities of the outlawed
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"The European Parliament urges the DTP and all its elected members to
distance themselves clearly from the PKK and its terrorist activities,
and appeals to all parties to contribute to a solution that enhances
the stability, prosperity and integrity of the Turkish state," the
draft says, while also calling on the Turkish government "to launch as
a matter of priority a political initiative favoring a lasting
settlement of the Kurdish issue, which initiative needs to address the
economic and social opportunities of citizens of Kurdish origin, and
to tangibly improve their cultural rights, including real
possibilities to learn Kurdish within the public and private schooling
system and to use it in broadcasting, in daily life and in access to
public services."

Calling the PKK a terrorist group and clearly condemning its violent
attacks, the European Parliament reiterated its solidarity with Turkey
in the fight against terrorism and once again called on the PKK to
declare and respect an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

Ankara's rapprochement with Iraqi Kurds, meanwhile, was appreciated in
the draft report.

"The European Parliament welcomes the communication and cooperation
developed over the last year between Turkish and Iraqi authorities,
including the contacts between Turkey and the Kurdish regional
government; encourages those authorities to further intensify their
cooperation, so as to ensure that terrorist attacks from Iraqi
territory are prevented under Iraqi responsibility, to guarantee
stability and to contribute to the economic development of the whole
Turkish-Iraqi neighborhood area; recalls its earlier appeals to the
Turkish government to respect, when conducting anti-terrorist
operations, Iraq's territorial integrity, human rights and the rule of
law, and to make sure that civilian casualties are avoided," the draft

28 November 2008, Friday