Acquittals in Ergenekon trial no surprise, says Turkish human rights lawyer

It comes as no surprise that all 235 suspects in a high-profile trial of an alleged clandestine terrorist organisation nested in the Turkish state were acquitted of all charges earlier this month, prominent human rights lawyer and activist Eren Keskin said.

Known as the Ergenekon case, a trial targeted high-ranking military personnel, politicians, journalists and civil society figures accused of forming an armed organized crime empire and using their influence to attempt to overthrow Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, come to an end on July 1.

The case involving hundreds of high-profile suspects concluded 11 years after it began in 2008, when an Istanbul court acquitted all 235 suspects on the basis that the Ergenekon organisation was not a real group.

“Our struggle, as human rights defenders and democrat, has been based on unveiling state crimes committed since 1915. Our struggle will continue. Nothing has changed for us. I was not expecting a positive decision. As such, it didn’t surprise me,’’ Keskin told pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, in apparent reference to the Armenian Genocide in 1915. 

Keskin said that the Turkist nationalist movement, which began in 1915, holds a deeply-rooted tradition and “Turkey’s apparent state has never been a real state.”  

According to the human rights lawyer there has always been a core deep state in Turkey, which wreaked havoc on the country during the 90s.

"It is a truth that there was a secret structure in the 90s referred to as counter-guerilla or as some called it the deep state. This structure committed many murders, people under detention disappeared, villages were burned down and all of these crimes were left with no repercussions,’’ Keskin said. 

It is now known that a clandestine network of Counter-Terrorism units, known as JİTEM, were behind the unsolved murders of the 90s in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast.

Turkey’s ruling AKP came to an agreement with the deep state, according to Keskin, which is the reason for the Ergenekon trial acquittals earlier this month.

When it first came to power 17 years ago, the Islamist AKP pedalled the idea that it would end the deep state formation, the lawyer said, however, the party has since struck an agreement with this formation.

AKP’s falling out with the Gülen movement, a Turkish Islamist group led by a U.S.-based preacher and blamed for the 2016 coup attempt, has also played a role in the deal it struck with the deep state, Keskin said.

“In order to remain strong, it opted to reach agreement with the deep state,’’ she said.