AK Party’s Ustun: Ergenekon members were certainly coup-makers

“I strongly believe that 15-20 people within Ergenekon planned to overthrow the government. Because some people tried to exploit the process, real criminals got away with what they did. I still remember the posters published by 1st Army Commanders,” Ustun told the press on Monday.

“Do you think it is normal that a commander publishes a poster on which it is said ‘loyalty to the army is our honor.’ I [will] never forget that. The army must be loyal to the nation. Unfortunately, the trials and investigations went off the rails and criminals got away,” he added.

President Erdogan has argued that he was “deceived” by those who carried out coup plot investigations called Ergenekon and Sledgehammer, saying he was saddened by senior members of the military during these investigations.

The president’s remarks came during a speech delivered at the Turkish War Colleges Command on Thursday evening. Addressing hundreds of senior military officers, Erdogan reiterated his claims of the “parallel structure,” a term invented by Erdogan to refer to followers of the Hizmet movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, particularly followers within the state bureaucracy.

The president, who on various occasions expressed strong support for the coup plot cases since they were launched in 2008, now claims that the investigations were the work of the “parallel structure.” Erdogan once declared himself as the “prosecutor” of the Ergenekon investigation.

“I and the whole country was misdirected and deceived with these operations which mixed up truth and lies, correct and the wrong,” Erdogan said, arguing that “Turkey witnessed a coup by a structure nested within the state which attempted to seize the country.

“Let me say this sincerely that I had never approved the arrest of many commanders including our former chief of General Staff [Gen. İlker Basbug] whom I worked with. I had also conveyed my disturbance to those who carried out those investigations,” he said.

Erdogan’s statements contradict with those of former İstanbul Police Department Intelligence Bureau Chief Ali Fuat Yılmazer, who claimed that it was then-Prime Minister Erdogan who gave the order for the arrest of retired Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Basbug. Erdogan denied the claim and filed a criminal complaint against Yılmazer last year. Yılmazer responded with a counter-complaint.

Ergenekon is a terrorist organization accused of working to topple the democratically elected government in Turkey. Its existence was discovered when the police found a number of hand grenades in a shanty house in İstanbul’s Umraniye district in 2007.

The suspects, who include members of the military, businessmen and journalists, appeared before a court for the first time in 2008 in what many described as the “trial of the century.” The suspects were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court in August 2013.

Basbug, who, along with 19 other generals and civilians, was sentenced to life in prison in the trial on charges of plotting to topple the civilian government. However, he was released in March 2014.