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(en) Turkey: Military Implicated in Attack on Rights Activist

From Tom Burghardt <tburghardt@igc.apc.org>
Date Sun, 31 May 1998 12:33:03 -0700 (PDT)
Cc aff@burn.ucsd.edu, amanecer@aa.net, ats@locust.etext.org, bblum6@aol.com, mnovickttt@igc.org, nattyreb@ix.netcom.com, pinknoiz@ccnet.com, sflr@slip.net

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

     InterPress Service
     Tuesday, 26 May 1998
     By Nadire Mater
     Source: PeaceNet Conference ips.english
     ISTANBUL, May 26 (IPS) - The would-be assassins who gunned
down Turkey's top human rights activist got their training, in
secret, from a non-commissioned officer with neo-fascist
sympathies serving with a top anti-terrorist intelligence unit.
     Six men were arrested at the weekend in connection with a
near-fatal gun attack on Akin Birdal, chairman of the country's
Human Rights Association. Shot seven times, Birdal was badly
wounded but survived.
     Two of the arrested group, Kerem Deretarla and Bahri Eken,
have reportedly confessed all to investigators and will plead
guilty to charges of attempted murder.
     In a remarkable confrontation, they were both brought before
Birdal's hospital bed so he could confirm them as the men who
gunned him down in his office on May 12.
     ''I looked into their very eyes,'' Birdal told IPS by phone
Monday, ''but they could not do the same to me. They were the
killers. But they are only tools, mere children. The real agents
are behind them.''
     Deretarla, just 17 years old, has told police that he was
trained for the attack in a secret woodland camp north of
Istanbul. His trainer was one Cengiz Ersever, a non-commissioned
officer serving with the country's paramilitary gendarmes.
     Ersever was promptly arrested and is expected to plead
guilty to the charges.
     Speaking to IPS from his bed in Ankara's private Sevgi
Hospital, Birdal recalled the moment when the would-be killers
struck. ''I knew,'' he said, speaking faintly and with
difficulty. ''I was expecting that they would make an attempt on
my life.
     ''They had come as visitors. But I suspected them, so I was
alert and stood up as they were leaving the room, so I could move
and defend myself.'' Birdal must undergo more surgery in the days
to come. His left foot and right arm are still paralysed.
     According to the gunmen's own testimony, as widely reported
here, he was targeted after the media printed the leaked
testimony of former Kurdish guerrilla commander Semdin Sakik, who
was snatched by a Turkish special forces unit earlier this year.
     In a wide ranging series of allegations attributed to Sakik
-- some of which he has since denied -- a long list of critics of
the government and military were 'named' as 'Kurdish agents' and
supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrilla force.
     According to the alleged testimony of Sakik, PKK leader
Abdullah Ocalan was supposed to have said that while Birdal ''is
not affiliated to the PKK, he is more PKK than anybody else in
the organisation''. Without Birdal, Ocalan allegedly said, the
PKK ''would not be able to establish the present influence we
have in Europe''.
     The unsubstantiated claims, quickly denied by Birdal, gave a
green light to Ersever, Deretarla and Eken, who had formed a
covert death squad specifically to target such 'enemies of the
     ''We decided to kill Akin Birdal when we read Sakik's
testimonies in the dailies,'' the gunmen are said to have told
the police.
     According to evidence presented to the courts here, Ersever
signed the two up alongside 15 others to form a death squad code-
named the Turkish Revenge Brigade. All were members of the
neo-fascist Nationalist Action Party (MHP) whose youth wing, the
Gray Wolves, have been implicated in the murders of thousands of
dissidents over the last three decades.
     ''I have scores of others in my list. Those who are the
enemies of the Turkish military and the police are also my
enemies,'' Ersever reportedly told police interrogators. The
original Turkish Revenge Brigades killed dozens of left-wingers
during the civil strife of the late 1970s. One brigade member,
Mehmet Ali Agca, later tried to kill the Pope.
     Remarkably, Ersever's name has come up before in similar
contexts. He was recently named by witnesses testifying at a
parliamentary commission investigating the so-called Susurluk
     This followed a now notorious car crash on the Susurluk
Highway that revealed top level links between the neo-fascists,
the police and MPs from former prime minister Tansu Ciller's True
Path (DYP) party.
     The parliamentary investigation, helped by testimonies from
top officials such as Security Intelligence chief Hanefi Avci,
exposed a vast network of covert death squads. These sqauds, in
the course of the 15 year war between the army and the PKK, have
been linked with the deaths of some 2,500 dissidents.
     Ersever, formerly with the Gendarme's Intelligence and
CounterTerrorism (JITEM) squad, was named by several witnesses
and linked to another former PKK cadre turned informer, Mahmut
Yildirim, codenamed 'Yesil' ('Green'). Yildirim in turn has been
linked with a number of extra-judicial killings.
     Ironically Hanefi Avci was himself in court Monday, charged
with 'revealing state secrets'. There he took the opportunity to
tell the judge that though Ersever's links with Yildirim was
known by the authorities, he was not prosecuted.
     ''Turkish Security, the Turkish Intelligence Organisation
(MIT) and the Gendarme, all knew this person 'Yesil' well;
followed him; filed their information about him, but did not move
a finger to shackle him,'' noted Kutlu Savas, who led the
investigation into the Susurluk Affair for prime minister Mesut
     ''Why?'' he asked, ''The only logical answer to this
question is that Yesil's operations and activities do not run
contrary to the general priorities and preferences of the
     A string of top officials implicated in the running of death
squads, including former interior minister Mehmet Agar, Gendarme
General Veli Kocok and others, so far have escaped prosecution.
     ''Since the state has declined to prosecute the key figures
in the Susurluk Affair, the gang has come to believe in their own
legitimacy and impunity,'' says journalist Oral Calislar of the
Istanbul's daily Cumhuriyet. ''The mafiosi behind this gang have
been convinced that they are free to pursue their activities.''
     Calislar has also received death treats and currently lives
and works under police guard.
     ''The attack triggered a revolt among public opinion,''
Birdal told IPS Monday. ''They had to investigate the attack and
arrest the gunmen in the face of such a massive reaction.''
     Thousands of protestors took to the streets in protest at
Birdal's shooting and a string of high profile visitors to his
bedside included British foreign secretary Robin Cook, in his
capacity as holder of the European Union's presidency.
     ''Turkey is governed by a totalitarian system that does not
recognise the rights of the opposition,'' Birdal said. ''I have
been targeted for I have been expressing the common belief of so
many millions, that basic human rights can only be implemented
here when peace reigns in Turkey.''
     Copyright 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS).
     All rights reserved.
                              * * *
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