Haksızlıklar karşısında suskun kalmadığımdan dolayı bugün Silivri’deyim

Ilker Basbug Letter Internet Ergenekon

I was arrested on January 6, 2012. Almost four months have passed. What was Turkey’s gain from all the injustices that has happened to me and many others in my position? Have any of these happenings contributed to the development of Turkish democracy in any way? Have these events helped Turkey to gain any more reputation than she already has internally or externally? Most importantly, after all has happened, do Turkish nation start to believe that a fair trial is possible in Turkey and as a result, they have faith in their justice system?

A few answers to these questions:

In recent days, the public opinion polls indicate that 67.6% of the population has no confidence in the judiciary system.1

Schaake Marietje a Dutch member of the European Parliament asks, “Could the second biggest army of NATO be managed by the terrorists?” And he answered, “It’s hard to believe so.”2

According to Mr. Mehmet Tezkan, “Basbug’s trial is not a case to be characterized as democracy nor is it to be referred as the rule of law. On the contrary, it’s problematic. It’s both problematic in terms of law and democracy. The problem is in the indictment.3

Mr. Ergun Babahan, on his column, opposed to the accusation of Basbug being “the leader of a terrorist organization” since he believes that the crimes that are attributed to Basbug has nothing to do with the leadership of a terrorist organization.4

Following the decision to my arrestment, a lot has been said and written about me. Of all the things that were being said and written, the most important and meaningful for me was by Feride Esen Bilgin who titled her article as “Now, He is a Taciturn Commander” in Cumhuriyet newspaper.5

The taciturn commander isn’t me, in the article. And probably I’m in Silivri jail because I can’t stay quiet against things being done unjustly.

In the article, the taciturn commander is Mr. Bilgin’s 85 years old uncle, army retired, Major Sabahattin Altinok, who died on March 9, 2012.

Bilgin described Korea War veteran Mr. Altinok’s last days with these lines:

“Ergenekon had reacted to the pain, which was caused by the Sledgehammer traps, by suffering inside, sometimes by roaring, at other times by weeping, and sometimes by staying quiet.

When retired, Chief of Staff Ilker Basbug was arrested, he became silent as if everything had done with him.Everything was over now. He was extending his hand into the emptiness and was watching us with meaningful looks, he became silent, stared into the empty space and he did not speak any more, could not speak.”

My valuable, deceased sir, Mr. Sabahattin Altinok, perhaps like many other people in Turkey, thought that everything was over. There was a deep and great meaning in his silence.  One can only respect this memorable, noble behavior.

However, nowadays it is really hard to comprehend in particular the civil and military authorities and everyone else who has a conscience being silent when it comes to voice their opinions about justice.

This is not my personal grievance. What I had been confronted with for so long is just a bad example all the painful occurrences happening in my country due to how the legal means are being rendered.

This is all about the stance of Turkish judiciary system today.

I have experienced the injustices that many others has experienced before me.

Actually, life itself and what we go through throughout our lives is just a game, isn’t it?

For some, it’s a drama, for the others it’s a comedy or just a tragicomic game.

Some are players and some are just bystanders.

This time, the game is to make a criminal out of a retired Chief of Staff.

What was all this about?

The court, at an unexpected time, filed a criminal complaint.

Essentially, this criminal complaint was based on an “Internet memorandum.”

Mrs. Nazli Ilicak evaluated this Internet memorandum in an article as follows, “To me, a stand-alone Internet memorandum does not constitute a crime because the Chief of Staff has the authority to publish Internet sites. Before Ilker Basbug became Chief of General Staff, numerous web sites were running. All these sites became news in February 2009. Upon which, all of these sites were shut down. Consequently, Ilker Basbug’s “I shut those sites down” defense was appropriate. Internet Memorandum, which is the document that got transferred to the legal system was about four published web sites. None of these four sites had been in published. In this case, Basbug can ask, “What am I being accused of?”6

The prosecution, far from sincerity, prepared an indictment with prejudice without requiring any research to find tangible facts.

After reading the indictment, which was prepared for Dreyfus, Emile Zola said:

“These allegations and accusations are unjustified. It could only be a failed comedy to try to charge someone with such an indictment.”

Mr. Mehmet Ali Birand wrote, “I read the indictment from all angles and couldn’t find anything but assumptions.”7

Unfortunately, the court that decides in the name of people, has accepted this indictment.

In the indictment, the accusations against me were; attempt to eliminate the Government of the Republic of Turkey by using force and violence and to be the leader of an armed terrorist organization.

Mr. Taha Akyol assessed the situation in an article:

Basbug ‘s attitude, not only personally but even during his Chief of Staff duty, has never been violent or forceful as a military enterprise against the government.

To be able to give someone a “leader of a terrorist organization” title, one has to be certain that this person is involved in violent acts or has relationships with people who are vigorously involved in violence. There are no such claims about Basbug in this direction. In criminal law, the crime cannot be extended by means of explications.”8

After all these assessments;

Of course, it would be unfair to the authority that I had occupied and to the Turkish Armed forces, to accept the unfairness to defend in a court, where the justice is being ignored and against such a groundless accusation.

For this reason, I decided to “remain silent” in the court.

During the first trial, right after I did explain why I will not defend myself but remain silent and will not answer any questions, the court’s first question to me was about a picture of me which was taken by the “Wailing Wall.” I still do not know what would be the relationship between this picture and the prosecution’s allegations.

I still wonder if it was a psychological strategy towards me, who is being accused of propaganda against the government?

Regardless of not having any solid, reasonable, concrete or credible evidence towards me in hand, the court, especially concerning the Internet Memorandum case, consolidated my case with the 2nd Ergenekon case. Thus, as Mr. Ismet Berkan noted, Internet Memorandum case was dropped in to a well in hell.9

As if these joint cases were not enough, 1st Ergenekon case was combined with the 2nd Ergenekon case. Now, more importantly, our honor and reputation was damaged beyond irreversible as we were put in the same category with the criminals who bombed the Cumhuriyet newspaper and already got sentenced.

With this indictment, the Chief of Staff has been declared as an Enemy of the State and Democracy.”

One should not always expect what happens to comply with reality.

Exactly, this had happened in this case. How?

Again, let’s look at what Taha Akyol wrote:

“The indictment, even though Basbug frequently attributes to the liberal literature, doesn’t have a single word as to a different definition of an army in democracies. Wasn’t it necessary to obtain favorable evidence?10

Of course, they should have been obtained. Perhaps, I’m one of those people who has talked about democracy the most.

“Another key feature of republic is democracy. The Turkish Armed Forces do respect democracy and democratic rules. Democracy is a system where the basic rights and freedoms of the minors are being protected against the majority.”

I delivered these words in a speech during the ceremony day of being appointed as Chief of Staff.

During the Annual Review meeting on April 14, 2009, I said:

“For the purpose of republic to climb above the level of modern civilization, it’s only natural for the government to be governed in a democratic way because a modern republic can only be attained by having a modern democracy.

The relationship between the civilians and the military is not an equal dialogue. The civilian leaders have the real power and authority in this relationship.”

In a speech, I delivered on January 25, 2010; I touched bases on democracy as follows:

“I am ashamed of the allegations of coup. Several incidents took place in Turkey. Today, we think of these events as left behind and we say:

In democracy, the most important issue is the election of new governments by using democratic methods.

The speech I gave on the last day of my duty as the Chief of Staff on August 27, 2010, I said the used the same words that I used on my 1st day on duty:

“The Turkish Armed Forces respect and depend on the democracy regime. Strive to do their part to keep the democracy healthy. Serve as an institution that values modern democracy. ”

How can one call “Enemy of state and Democracy” to a Chief of Staff who always acts in accordance to what he says and sincerely repeats these words at every opportunity he gets?

To recall the contributions I have made to democratize the relationship between civilians and military, the following considerations need to be addressed briefly:

  • Under the Constitution, the Chief of Staff is responsible to the Prime Minister. Therefore, it was proposed to have weekly meetings between the Prime Minister and Army Chief of Staff.
  • Right after as I appointed as Chief of Staff, the order to abolish the Information Support Department in a time frame was given. The expected objective here was to review the current duties,  focus on fight on terror, concentrate on new tasks and distribute these new tasks within the existing departments, hence, saving personnel.
  • Indeed, in this context, four Information Support Battalion Command, both within the immediate circle of the Information Support Department was abolished on August 11, 2009.
  • In order to prevent further eroding of the Armed Forces and given that it’s time had come, was given support to the removal of EMASYA protocol.
  • Attended a meeting arranged by the Governor of Diyarbakir on September 4, 2008. Shared point of views with civil society organizations which are an important element of democracy.
  • Listened to the people of Van, Sirnak and Hakkari, where terror is at peak level.
  • Made an amendment within the General Staff accreditation system and opened the Chief of Staff doors to the Star and Yenisafak newspapers.
  • Just like in all the western countries, within his powers and responsibilities, to inform the public in a timely manner with accurate information, met with the media for briefings.
  • Timely and accurate public information purposes the powers and responsibilities as well as all the western countries were left in the media briefings.

Of course, these examples can be multiplied. Here, some examples were given.

As can be seen, powers and responsibilities granted, under the law, as the 26th Chief of Staff, not only by adhering to democracy, Constitution, and the laws, while I tried to protect the unity and integrity, discipline and morale of the Turkish Armed Forces against any adverse impacts.

According to some, this has been my principal fault.

In Turkey, the recent occurrences are not inherent.

Many who has been wronged are asking, “What am I being accused of? What is my crime? Why am I a prisoner here?” These questions need to be heard and it’s time to say “There are judges in Turkey as well” before it is too late.

Today, this article was written on behalf of many people who has suffered from injustices and submitted as an open letter to the consideration of those who are interested in.

However, even though the justice can be misled time to time but keep in mind that it can never be deceived.

Gen. (Ret.) M. İlker Başbuğ

1 GENAR Research Company, Turkey’s Social, Economic and Political Analysis, April 4, 2012

2 Marietje Schaake, April 18, 2012

3 Mehmet Tezkan, Milliyet, March 29, 2012

4 Ergun Babahan, Star, March 28 2012

5 Feride Esen Bilgin, Cumhuriyet, March 21, 2012

6 Nazlı Ilıcak, Sabah, March 30, 2012

7 Mehmet Ali Birand, Posta, March 31, 2012

8 Taha Akyol, Hürriyet, March 28, 2012

9 İsmet Berkan, Hürriyet, April 17, 2012

10 İsmet Berkan, Hürriyet, April 17, 2012