Ergenekon: Turkey's Troubling Trial of the Century

October 20, 2008
The so-called 'Trial of the Century' began here today. Eight-six people, including a number of retired generals and prominent journalists, have been accused of plotting to overthrow the government. The undertaking was supposedly called 'Ergenekon.' It is so strange, so sensational, that frankly I have no idea what to believe.
It all started on June 29 of last year, when police raided a home in the Ümraniye district of Istanbul, where they found a stock of weapons. Six months later, in January of 2008, police took thirty-three suspects into custody, claiming they were part of a terrorist group that had been carrying out political assassinations in Turkey, including the January 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, editor of an Armenian-language newspaper in Istanbul. The suspects rounded up included a former Major General by the name of Veli Küçük, a retired army colonel named Fikret Karadağ, a journalist for the newspaper Akşam, Güler Kömürcü, and several other figures. One of the most intriguing names to emerge from the early investigation was Sami Hoştan, who was involved in the Susurluk scandal from the late 90s (more on that below). Police claimed that they had found a so-called 'death list' created by the group which included the names of Kurdish political figures like Ahmet Türk, Leyla Zana, Sebahat Tuncel, and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, as well as Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk and Zaman newspaper journalist Fehmi Konru. The group, which police claimed was a nationalist death squad with links to the state, was called Ergenekon.