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Dink verdict: Border between state and deep state fades away

by İhsan Yilmaz, Today's Zaman on . Posted in Columns

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Five years ago, in my column on Jan. 21, 2007, a few days after Hrant Dink’s assassination, I wrote, “Turkey desperately needs to quash the deep state, mythical or real.

The usual suspects, including retired bureaucrats, could and should be effectively surveilled, prosecutors can and should be as courageous and vigilant as they were in prosecuting Dink and many others who threatened Turkishness or the Turkish state by expressing their opinions. The government can and should overcome Şemdinli syndrome.” Unfortunately, the recent court verdict on the Dink case only confirmed that we have been miserably disappointed in regard to all of the above expectations.

It is not an exaggeration to argue that the state, with this court verdict, killed Hrant Dink for the second time. My use of the term “the state” might be bothersome, but I believe we are all entitled to use it after the court judgment. Let me explain why I feel this way. Five years ago, we suspected this was the work of the deep state or, to use today’s terminology, Ergenekon. We were not sure at that time. But then the Ergenekon case showed that the deep state in fact existed. Then, with the Cage plan, which is being tried now, too, showed us Ergenekon referred to the Dink assassination as an “operation.” Journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan’s diligent work on the case, “There is this Armenian,” showed very clearly that deep-state elements within the gendarmerie orchestrated the assassination by not only manipulating but also guiding and helping the youngsters. The police were trapped by the deep state, and others were negligent for some reason. Some rogue elements within the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) were also involved. The security forces knew that Dink was in danger, but they did nothing to protect him. After the assassination, there was a psychological campaign to make people believe it was just the work of youngsters emotionally aroused by nationalism.

Besides, some journalists such as Nedim Şener worked carefully to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the police and tried to clear the gendarmerie, which was the main culprit. The police were at fault in failing to protect him, but the deep-state section of the gendarmerie was the main organizer, a fact that was carefully omitted by Şener, who is now an Ergenekon suspect.

Until then, we could argue this was the work of the deep state, not the state. However, in later stages, the state has been involved. First, we did not have the same enthusiasm as the prosecutors, who were very active in prosecuting Dink. The courts for a long time resisted unifying different, related cases into the same case. The police, unlike its usual anti-Ergenekon activism, was not enthusiastic about the Dink case. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians boasted that it was a matter of honor to unearth the rogue elements behind the assassin, but in practice, they did very little. For instance, it was not possible to question the MİT as the politicians did not allow it. Then, in the light of all this, came the last blow. The judges rejected the prosecutor’s and suspect Erhan Tuncel’s claim it was the work of a terror organization. Normally, our judges love to try any group of three to four armed people as a terrorist organization. In this case, there were at least 18 interlinked suspects, but the court claimed it was the work of a few independent individuals. Of course, there is still the Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargitay), and things may change. Yet, as of now, we can argue the state has turned a blind eye to the deep state, to say the least, in the Dink case.

It must also be noted how amazingly this pro-deep state verdict has been manipulated and turned around to attack the integrity of the other courts that are dealing with the Ergenekon case. With a simple but definitely distorted logic, pro-Ergenekonians say, “Look, the Dink court is corrupt so all other courts must be.” Ergo, the Ergenekon case is based on a myth, not a reality. The psychological campaign of the pro-Ergenekon groups is so brazen that Dani Rodrik, the son-in-law of Sledgehammer suspect Gen. Çetin Doğan, wrote on Twitter the public should be prepared to see, upon the Dink verdict, the Hizmet (Gülen) Movement’s media claim Ergenekon was not tackled but protected with the Dink verdict. While Rodrik was writing this, Turks from all sorts of ideological backgrounds were blaming on social media the court as being pro-Ergenekon. Despite this obvious fact, Rodrik was simply helping, consciously or not, the psychological campaign that says the Ergenekon case is an invention of the Hizmet Movement and no one else supports the cases. Funnily enough, the European Commission has constantly supported the cases. They must be part of the Hizmet movement! Last but not least, the onus of cleaning up this mess is on the shoulders of the politicians if we are talking about a democratic state. If not -- and the AKP claims there are still some deep-state elements -- then it must ask some of its ministers who keep talking against the Ergenekon case openly or behind the closed doors not to play games.