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About Bill Park

Bill Park is a senior lecturer in the department of defence studies at Kings College London. He is currently conducting a longer-term study of the three way relationship between Turkey, the United States and the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq. His books include Turkey's Policy Towards Northern Iraq: Problems and Prospects (Routledge, 2005), and Modern Turkey: People, State and Foreign Policy in a Globalized World (Routledge, 2011)

Articles by Bill Park

This week's editor

NSS, editor

Niki Seth-Smith is a freelance journalist and contributing editor to 50.50.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Turkey’s election: voting to revisit the past?

Expect more Turkish turbulence and drama to come, and for Turkish politics to once again resemble the years preceding 2002.                

Turkey has elections, but not democracy

Whatever shortcomings today’s Turkey has, they cannot all be pinned on AKP rule. But democracy and governance are deeply troubled and becoming more so.

Turkey and the Islamic State crisis: everyone's non-ally?

The military success of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq intensifies questions over Turkey's strategy and decisions. What Ankara does next will help to resolve them.   

Mosul, Maliki and ISIS: the view today from Erbil

It is surely not overly pessimistic to anticipate tension between Kurd and Sunni Arab in the months and years to come, almost regardless of the outcome of the current fighting. But Kurds are looking like much the best sort of neighbour in this desperate region.

Turkey's struggle: Erdoğan vs Gülen

A series of escalating crises in Turkey is reshaping political alliance and enmities. It also casts a shadow over the country's democratic future, says Bill Park.

Turkey’s Kurdish policy: sleepwalking to crisis

 A mix of inheritance, repression and strategic vacuity is pulling Turkey's leadership into a long-term Kurdish quagmire, says Bill Park.

Turkey, Kurds, Iraq, Syria: a new regional dynamic

The middle-east’s power-balance is in flux amid state tensions and political conflicts. In a two-part article, Bill Park - who was recently in Ankara and Erbil - examines the impact of these changes on Turkey and its neighbours, especially the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq. In part one, he looks at the Iraqi dimension; in part two, at Syria’s conflict and the wider Kurdish question.

Turkey: vibrant democracy vs majority rule

Another epic political moment in Turkey confirms that the country is changing. But in which direction, asks Bill Park.

Turkey and Ergenekon: from farce to tragedy

An epic military, political, and security scandal continues to absorb Turkey. The affair's latest bizarre sub-plots make the tensions between the country's “deep state” and its constitutional order even more acute, says Bill Park.

Ergenekon: power and democracy in Turkey

The series of trials in Turkey investigating the extra-legal activities of the elusive ultra-nationalist organisation "Ergenekon" reached a crucial stage on 3 August 2009 with the acceptance by the Istanbul chief public prosecutor of the third indictment presented to it. In subsequent weeks hearings relating to the case have been merged with those investigating the second indictment, which centres on alleged coup plots against the government headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP). 

Bill Park is a senior lecturer in the department of defence studies at Kings College London  

Also by Bill Park in openDemocracy

"Ergenekon: Turkey's military-political contest" (3 November 2008)

"Ergenekon: Turkey's deep state' in the light" (7 August 2008)

The Ergenekon scandal begun with a police raid in June 2007 on a house in an Istanbul shantytown that netted some grenades and fuses. More raids and arrests followed, leading to the opening of a first indictment in July 2008; the second was accepted by the court in March 2009; the addition of fifty-two new defendants named in the third brings the total number of suspects to almost 200. The process of investigation, moreover, is ongoing: the submission of a fourth indictment is forecast.  

The third indictment marks a departure from the first and second in that it labels the Ergenekon organisation as "terrorist". It also makes a number of major allegations: 

* that JITEM - a secret gendarmerie intelligence unit (whose existence is officially denied) was responsible for the assassination of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, and that it planned numerous other killings, including that of the writer Orhan Pamuk and the former armed forces chief-of-staff Yasar Buyukanit 

* that the Ergenekon organisation orchestrated the anti-Alevi violence in Sivas in 1933 which resulted in thirty-three deaths 

* that it aimed to infiltrate the administration of the country's universities 

* that it was responsible for corruption in military procurement.

The legal facade 

Gareth Jenkins, an independent Istanbul-based British analyst, is one of just a few commentators, inside or outside Turkey, who have read the first two indictments in full. This is hardly surprising, as they run to 2,455 and 1,909 pages respectively. The third indictment, at 1454 pages, will surely meet with a similar fate. After close examination of the documents, Jenkins has produced an invaluable and compelling eighty-three page analysis of their contents. Indeed, its publication has generated something of a storm in Turkey, whose effect has been further to demonstrate the extent to which the Ergenekon case has divided political opinion in the country along (predictably) polarised lines (see Gareth Jenkins, Between Fact and Fantasy: Turkey's Ergenekon Investigation, Silk Road Studies, August 2009).  

Among openDemocracy's many articles about the future of Turkey: 

Fadi Hakura, "Europe and Turkey: sour romance or rugby match?" (13 November 2006) 

Katinka Barysch, "Turkey and the European Union: don't despair" (27 November 2006) 

George Schöpflin, "Turkey's crisis and the European Union" (23 July 2007) 

Safa A Hussein, "Turkey's Kurdish tightrope: a view from Iraq" (5 November 2007) 

Soner Cagaptay, "Turkey and the Kurds: everybody's problem" (5 November 2007) 

openDemocracy, "Turkey and a new vision for Europe" (12 December 2007) 

Fatma Müge Göçek, "Hrant Dink: memory and hope" (17 January 2008) 

Mustafa Akyol, "Turkey's 'Islamic reform': roots and reality" (4 March 2008) 

Katinka Barysch, "Turkey: the constitutional frontline" (15 April 2008) 

Cem Özdemir, "Turkey's clash of values: memo to Europe" (29 April 2008) 

Hakan Altinay, "Recep Tayyip Erdogan: the Mandela test" (17 March 2009) 

Gunes Murat Tezcur, "Turkey in transition: reality and image" (24 April 2009)
It is impossible to do justice here to his report, but Jenkins argues that the indictments reflect the widespread Turkish attachment to conspiracy theory rather than any judicial concern with hard evidence. His report suggests that the investigation presupposes - but entirely fails to prove - the existence of an Ergenekon "gang" to which the indictees are accused of belonging. Jenkins also highlights the numerous judicial flaws surrounding the case: 

* the "evidence" often amounts to little more than hearsay and is full of contradiction and inconsistency 

* a majority of the suspects seem guilty of little other than opposition to the AKP government 

* the circumstances of many of the detentions are illegal 

* the police raids have themselves not been carried out with due process 

* there has been extensive and illegal leaking of information to the pro-government media.  

In short, Gareth Jenkins characterises the Ergenekon case as largely a witch-hunt conducted by elements within the judiciary, the police and the media against AKP opponents and arch-secularists and nationalists. Although he stops short of accusing the government of directly masterminding the investigation, he does draw attention to its support for it and to its failure to ensure legal procedures are properly followed. Jenkins concludes: "a more pressing concern is not the wasted opportunity for Turkey to confront its past but what the Ergenekon investigation might be saying about its future, and the disturbing questions it raises about the prospects for democracy and the rule of law in the country."  

Jenkins's report adds to growing doubts that the AKP government is indeed doing what many people hoped for and believed in after its election in 2002, and even after its re-election in 2007 with an increased majority: an intensified process of democratisation in Turkey. The European Union-associated reform process has made little headway since 2005, the plans for a new constitution have been dropped, and the draconian tax-fine imposed on the Dogan media group looks more like an act of political spite and intimidation than it does an attempt to crack down on the near-universal tax evasion practiced in Turkey.  

There are other developments that have intensified Turkey's polarisation, prominent among them the publication in June 2009 by the anti-military newspaper Taraf of documents leaked from the Ergenekon investigation and bearing the signature of a navy colonel. The documents outline a plot to discredit both the AKP government and the influential religious movement that carries the name of its founder, Fethullah Gülen.  

The Turkish general staff has insisted the documents are forgeries and were not produced under its auspices; it has refused to prosecute the officer under its own code. He was briefly detained by the police, but then released in record time on the orders of a judge.  

The political calculation 

What conclusions might be drawn from these events? After all, it remains a fact that Turkey's political history is littered with unexplained assassination and disappearances, death-threats, and violent incidents; and that the Ergenekon investigation represents the first sustained attempt to tackle this dark past. It is true too that many in Turkey associate these crimes with the so-called derin devlet (deep state) - an inner core of arch-Kemalist military officers, judges, and bureaucrats whose members have long benefited from a "culture of immunity" surrounding their activities (see Gareth Jenkins, "Turkey: 'Deep State' conspiracy", 27 January 2009).

The Ergenekon investigation might yet conclude - if it ever concludes - that no "gang" exists as such. But this might come to matter less than it should, if the case is seen against the background of Turkey's official, longstanding and extensive "culture of immunity".   

A key modern illustration, mentioned in Jenkins‘s report, is the bombing of a bookstore in the Kurdish town of Semdinli in 2005. The gendarmerie officers who were caught red-handed by witnesses to the incident remain at large and protected by the military and the courts, while the (Islamist) prosecuting judge responsible for flaws in the conduct of the case was hounded from office as a result.  

Those in Turkey who are now so critical of the less-than-democratic credentials of the AKP and its sympathisers have often remained silent in the face of abuses such as this. The manipulation of the judicial process, intimidation of the media, habitual corruption, and an inclination to conspiracy theory was inherited rather than invented by those currently in power in Turkey. Yet the AKP has also introduced more extensive EU-friendly reform than any preceding government, and is currently engineering a much needed opening on the Kurdish question.  

In this light, perhaps the Ergenekon case can be seen less as containing any promise of democracy, and more in terms of power: as a battle for control over Turkey's institutions. The core choice is between (on one side) an inner core of unelected, self-appointed and often state-employed arch-nationalists whose "culture of immunity" is at last under threat, and (on the other) an imperfectly democratic, illiberal, but nonetheless electorally popular new elite of Anatolian populists. Take your pick - if you must.  

Ergenekon: Turkey's military-political contest

Turkey's year of extraordinary political controversy continues to absorb and divide the country's citizens. The latest high-level dispute surrounds the opening on 20 October 2008 in Istanbul of the long-awaited trial of eighty-six suspects involved in the elusive "Ergenekon" conspiracy. The scenes of chaos and overcrowding in the specially-constructed courtroom were such that the judges decided to adjourn the case until three days later. The delayed launch is an early signal that the legal process promises to be long and difficult. Behind, the trial, moreover, are divisions within Turkey's political and military elites that have the capacity to create even more crises in the period ahead.

Bill Park is a senior lecturer in the department of defence studies at Kings College London

Also by Bill Park in openDemocracy:

"Ergenekon: Turkey's ‘deep state' in the light" (7 August 2008)
A secret power

The 2,455-page Ergenekon indictment, which has resulted in around thirty charges being levelled at the suspects range from membership of terrorist organisations and plotting the violent overthrow of the government to arson and the illegal possession of firearms. It is an unwieldy document that contains evidence of variable quality, with hard forensic evidence at one end of the spectrum to little more than unsubstantiated hearsay at the other. This offers serious grounds for doubting that the trial will succeed in bringing many guilty verdicts, certainly of high-profile defendants and for the more serious offences (see "Ergenekon: Turkey's ‘deep state' in the light", 7 August 2008).

There are additional reasons for pessimism. The chances of progress are likely to be worn down by Turkey's notoriously slow legal system, and probably obstructed by the well-established practice of pleading "state secrets" to ensure immunity. The retired general Veli Kucuk, one of the leading defendants in the case, successfully used just this ploy during the investigation of his role in the Susurluk incident in 1996 - when a car-crash in western Turkey (in which a high-ranking police officer, a far-right mafia boss and a Kurdish paramilitary died) revealed the existence of sinister collaboration between representatives of the derin devlet ("deep state").

The trial is already intensely politicised. The opposition Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People's Party / CHP) leadership insists that the case has essentially been engineered by the ruling Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice & Development Party / AKP) government as a means to persecute its opponents. A number of detentions relating to the investigation made since the trial began - such as (on 26 October) those of another four Ergenekon suspects who had been working for the TV station Kanalturk, a formerly anti-government channel bought by a pro-AKP group in early 2008  - which could further complicate the process. Furthermore, Turkey's judges are notoriously susceptible to pressure. Unless it is brought prematurely to a halt, the trial is likely to take years to complete, with the result that the public's attention will gradually wane. 

Among openDemocracy's many articles on Turkey's politics:

Fadi Hakura, "Europe and Turkey: sour romance or rugby match?" (13 November 2006)

Katinka Barysch, "Turkey and the European Union: don't despair" (27 November 2006)

George Schöpflin, " Turkey's crisis and the European Union" (23 July 2007)

Gunes Murat Tezcur, " Turkey's political opening" (24 July 2007)

Gunes Murat Tezcur, " Turkey's Kurdish challenge" (8 November 2007)

openDemocracy, "Turkey and a new vision for Europe" (12 December 2007) - a statement by leading European intellectuals

Hasan Turunc, " Turkey and Iraqi Kurds: the politics of military action" (25 February 2008)

Mustafa Akyol, " Turkey's ‘Islamic reform': roots and reality" (4 March 2008)

openDemocracy, "Turkey's risk, Europe's role" (2 April 2008) - a second statement from a group of European intellectuals

Katinka Barysch, " Turkey: the constitutional frontline" (14 April 2008)

Cem Özdemir, " Turkey's clash of values: memo to Europe" (29 April 2008)

Hakan Altinay & Kalypso Nicolaïdis, " Why the European Union strengthens Turkish secularism" (3 September 2008)

Max Farrar, " Anatolian Muslimhood: humanising capitalism?" (29 October 2008)
A particular weakness of the indictment is its failure to incorporate - thus far - the diaries of a former Turkish navy commander that were published in the journal Nokta in March 2007 (an act which provoked the magazine's closure). These included details of coup plots in 2003 and 2004 against the AKP government. It seems likely that the Ergenekon hearings will put the cases of two retired generals arrested in connection with the plots - former gendarmerie head Sener Eruygur and retired general Hursit Tolon - on a slow track.

A number of senior serving officers implicated in the plots have not been arrested, and the military top-brass have declared that the diary contents will be the subject of an internal military investigation - where the jurisdiction of civilian law does not apply. This has attracted considerable criticism in Turkey's increasingly outspoken media, although AKP government ministers have not seen fit to comment. The suspicion is growing in Turkey that the Ergenekon investigation will not dare stray in the direction of the military, or at any rate of its upper echelons.

True, the success or otherwise of the Ergenekon trial in bringing justice to the guilty may not be the only criteria against which it will be measured. Turks have long been convinced of the existence of a "deep state", or of "a state within the state", that enjoys immunity and that bears responsibility for many of Turkey's long catalogue of unresolved political assassinations, death- threats and other politically-charged incidents (see "Turkey's Dark Side: Party closures, conspiracies and the future of democracy", European Stability Initiative, April 2008).

The trial proceedings will serve to further publicise and, in the eyes of many, "prove" both the existence and the culpability of the "deep state", and confirm the nature of its personnel. In any case, the very fact that the trial is being held at all raises hopes that major changes in Turkish political life are underway. But should the Ergenekon case simply fizzle out, this will only confirm to many Turks just how truly "deep" the deep state is in their country's public life - and how involved in it are elements of the military establishment.

A gun at the table

The Turkish general staff (TGS) has been put under yet more, and perhaps even more damaging, public scrutiny as a result of an attack by the Kurdish guerrillas of the PKK on 3 October 2008 on a Turkish military outpost at Aktutun, just a few miles from the Iraqi border, in which seventeen soldiers lost their lives. The TGS initially declared that a shortage of funds was to blame for the flimsy construction and inadequate defences of the outpost. This was greeted with near-universal derision when, almost immediately, photographs appeared in the Turkish media of the air-force chief Aydogan Babaoglu relaxing on a new military-only golf-course near the resort town of Antalya.

The general apparently continued with his round of golf as reports of the Aktutun attack filtered through. The fact that Turkish public emotion is inflamed by the deaths of the country's "martyrs" in the anti-PKK fight makes this something of a public-relations disaster for the military.

In addition, reports began to appear suggesting that the TGS had in fact received advanced warning of the attack but had failed to act. This invited comparison with a similar PKK attack on another military outpost, at Daglica, in October 2007 (when twelve soldiers were killed and eight more kidnapped). An investigation into that attack had revealed that the general staff had been tipped off about plans for the attack nine days before it occurred. In the days that followed, Turkey witnessed an almost unprecedented public questioning of both the professionalism of the TGS, and even of its integrity (see Yigal Schleifer, "Turkey: The Military, Pillar of the Secular Tradition, Finds Itself on the Defensive", Eurasianet, 23 October 2008).

If that was bad enough for the military, soon after the Aktutun attack took place things got worse. The newspaper Taraf revealed what it claimed was classified video footage, taken from an unmanned aerial-vehicle (UAV), of extensive PKK preparations for the attack. These involved the placement of heavy artillery, the laying of mines, and the movements of up to 350 PKK fighters; the paper published additional evidence that the TGS had been in receipt of successive indications of an imminent PKK assault throughout the month preceding its actual occurrence.

In response, a visibly angry and emotional TGS chief, General Ilker Basbug, appeared in a live television broadcast, unusually and menacingly flanked by the land, air and gendarmerie commanders. He warned the assembled media against undermining the armed forces and giving succour to terrorists: "This is my last word. I invite everyone to be careful and stand in the right position." The TGS investigation into the incident at Aktutun denied the accuracy of Taraf's evidence, but failed to explain quite how and why the PKK attack succeeded as it did.  

Notwithstanding the widespread journalistic resistance to Basbug's threatening gesture, prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sprang to his defence and refused to criticise the military's negligence. "Nobody should dare to show our government or security forces as weak" in the fight against terrorism, he declared. Within days, Basbug and his senior colleagues found themselves briefing the full cabinet on measures being taken in the fight against the PKK - the first time in the history of the Turkish republic that top military commanders had attended a cabinet meeting (the usual forum for such briefings is the National Security Council [NSC]).

The AKP government's deference to the Turkish general staff's operational autonomy is being increasingly matched by its accommodation to the TGS's political power. This suggests an additional reason to question just how far the Ergenekon case will be allowed to go. It will also be interesting to observe how the TGS's much-valued relationship with the Turkish public stands up in the face of events such as these. For in the end, it is Turkey's citizens who are guardians of their country's democratic order.

Ergenekon: Turkey’s “deep state” in the light

Turkey's numerous and interlocking series of political, legal and security crises continues to cast a large shadow over the country's future direction. At least one of these crises - the attempt to ban the governing Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice & Development Party / AKP) over its supposedly unconstitutional Islamist leanings - seemed to ease a little with the decision by the constitutional court on 31 July 2008 to impose a financial penalty on the party rather than declare it illegal.

Bill Park is a senior lecturer in the department of defence studies at Kings College London

This outcome, albeit by a narrow margin, was widely welcomed as a timely boost for Turkey's troubled democracy. As one legal timebomb is defused, however, another potent one remains primed. This is the 2,500-page indictment submitted to an Istanbul court on 14 July against an alleged conspiratorial group known by the sobriquet "Ergenekon".

The indictment was submitted a full thirteen months after the discovery of an arms dump in an Istanbul house, which prompted a wave of detentions. Under its terms, eighty-six figures - retired military officers, politicians, journalists, lawyers, businessmen, academics, and known criminals - were charged with a range of crimes; they included "attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey", "membership in an armed terrorist group", and "inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey".

Among openDemocracy's many articles on Turkey's politics:

Fadi Hakura, "Europe and Turkey: sour romance or rugby match?" (13 November 2006)

Katinka Barysch, "Turkey and the European Union: don't despair" (27 November 2006)

George Schöpflin, "Turkey's crisis and the European Union" (23 July 2007)

Gunes Murat Tezcur, "Turkey's political opening" (24 July 2007)

Gunes Murat Tezcur, "Turkey's Kurdish challenge" (8 November 2007)

openDemocracy, "Turkey and a new vision for Europe" (12 December 2007) - a statement by leading European intellectuals

Hasan Turunc, "Turkey and Iraqi Kurds: the politics of military action" (25 February 2008)

Mustafa Akyol, "Turkey's ‘Islamic reform': roots and reality" (4 March 2008)

openDemocracy, "Turkey's risk, Europe's role" (2 April 2008) - a second statement from a group of European intellectuals

Katinka Barysch, "Turkey: the constitutional frontline" (14 April 2008)

Cem Özdemir, "Turkey's clash of values: memo to Europe" (29 April 2008

The indictment made no reference to the publication by the weekly journal Nokta in early 2007 of what were alleged to be excerpts from the diaries of a former commander of the Turkish navy that coups against the AKP government had been planned in 2003 and 2004 during the term of general Hilmi Özkök as chief of the general staff. The diaries reported that Özkök had disappointed some of his subordinates by opposing the plans. Nokta's offices were raided and the journal closed down, although no action appears to have been taken by the military high command against the alleged conspirators.

An elusive conspiracy

A number of leading figures who were implicated in the diaries - including retired gendarmerie general Sener Eruygur (head of the movement which during 2007 had organised mass rallies against the ruling AKP's attempt to secure the presidency), and retired general Hursit Tolon - were since arrested as part of the Ergenekon investigation, with the cooperation of the military authorities; but they were not charged in the indictment. There have been still more detentions subsequent to the submission of the indictment. All this suggests that more indictments are to follow.

More specific charges included in the indictment are "inciting others to stage the 2006 council of state shooting and a hand-grenade attack at the Cumhuriyet newspaper's Istanbul office". The interest in these two allegations lies in the fact that the council-of-state attack, in which a senior judge was killed, came in the wake of an anti-headscarf decision made by the council, and that Cumhuriyet is a ferociously secular newspaper whose owner and regular columnist Ilhan Selcuk is among those charged with Ergenekon membership.

A supposed Islamist, Alpaslan Arslan, was found guilty of these attacks and is currently in jail. It is now alleged that he had links with members of the Ergenekon "gang". The possibility that the derin devlet ("deep state") staged attacks on its own sympathisers and on figures otherwise regarded as Republican loyalists, and then sought to provoke crises by shifting the blame onto leftists, Kurds and Islamists, suggest that it will now be suspected of each of Turkey's endless litany of hitherto unresolved disappearances, bombings, assassinations, disturbances, and acts of intimidations.

Indeed, some sections of the Turkish media are already raking over the past for crimes that might plausibly be linked to Ergenekon, although other media outlets are doing their best to minimise both their coverage of and the significance of the case. The leader of the arch-Kemalist Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People's Party / CHP) opposition party, Deniz Baykal, has been particularly insistent on what he has regarded as the politically-motivated, implausible and trivial nature of the allegations.

A shadow lifted

Turks have long been convinced of the existence of this so-called "deep state", consisting of interlocking networks of individuals, often drawn from but acting in parallel to the state, immune from prosecution and engaged directly or indirectly in illicit operations such as intimidation, assassinations and bombings against those deemed to be in opposition to the official Kemalist nationalist and secularist ideology of the Turkish republic. The detail contained in the Ergenekon indictment, made public on 25 July, suggest the presumed existence of a "deep state" has rested on something more substantial than any Turkish love of conspiracy theories.

It includes the allegation that the "gang" plied the PKK with logistical and monetary support and cooperated with it in the drugs trade, that it was behind a large number of unresolved political assassinations previously attributed to leftist and fundamentalist groups with whom the "gang" is reported to have links, and that it provoked intercommunal tensions between Turks and Kurds, and between Sunnis and Alevis.

One of the numerous past incidents attributed to the "deep state" is the so-called Susurluk affair of 1996, a road accident in which the high-ranking police officer at the wheel of the car and two of his passengers, a beauty queen and Abdullah Catli, an internationally sought after mafia boss and former leader of the far-right Grey Wolves movement, died. The only surviving passenger was a Kurdish tribal leader who both headed a "village guard" unit armed by the state to combat the armed guerrillas of the PKK in southeastern Turkey, and served as parliamentary representative for the Dogru Yol Partisi (True Path Party / DYP).

The national-assembly committee that investigated the incident offered considerable evidence of close ties between state authorities and criminal gangs, including the use of the far-right Grey Wolves to carry out illegal activities, but its investigations were obstructed and no serious arrests were made. The retired brigadier-general Veli Küçük, who was detained but then released during the investigation and was known to have associated with Catli, is just one of a number of Ergenekon indictees who had previously been linked to the Susurluk scandal.

Between past and future

The first cases relating to the Ergenekon investigation will be heard by the Turkish courts only on 20 October 2008. But with so many suspects, so many crimes, and with Turkey's track-record of official immunity, the investigation could take years before it yields significant fruit. It might meet with something substantially less than total success, and could even fizzle out. It is possible that the more the investigation shades from the "deep state" into the state itself, including the active military high command and perhaps the CHP leadership (both of which are anticipated), the more likely it is to at least partially run aground.

After all, as the Washington-based Turkish observer Omer Taspinar has expressed: "the system, the media, the state bureaucracy and the political culture of the country all fuel a schizophrenic and paranoid mindset. It is that mindset that has created Ergenekon". On the other hand, Turkey has never before moved anything like this far against the "deep state", and there is too a chance that the country might embark on the removal of those entrenched obstacles to its true democratisation.

The more this realisation penetrates the thinking of those in the west who have traditionally regarded Turkey's Kemalist establishment as the domestic guarantors of Turkey's democratisation, the more likely it is both that republican Turkey's past will be profoundly reinterpreted, and that its democratic future will be assured.

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