Turkey's non-Muslim communities, has been added to the case file on the 2007 Malatya murders, in which three missionaries were brutally killed at a Christian publishing house.
Güray Ertekin, the presiding judge at the Malatya 3rd High Court, announced on Thursday that his court had received a copy of the Cage indictment and added it to the case file. The decision marks an important step in the course of the trial, during which lawyers representing the victims' families have continually insisted that the murder of the three Christians was not a simple hate crime, but something much deeper.
The Cage plan was retrieved from a CD seized in the office of retired Maj. Levent Bektaş, a suspect in the Ergenekon case, in April. The CD exposed the group's plans to assassinate prominent Turkish non-Muslim figures and place the blame for the killings on the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The desired result was an increase in internal and external pressure on the party, leading to diminishing public support for the government.
The plan calls the killings of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, Catholic priest Father Andrea Santoro and three Christians in Malatya an "operation." An antidemocratic group within the Naval Forces Command aimed at fomenting chaos in society with those killings, but complained that the plan failed when large groups protested the killings in mass demonstrations.
"The operations created a large public outcry that non-Muslims in the country were the target of reactionary groups. But society stood by non-Muslims with a ‘We are all Armenians' campaign. Now, we will continue the propaganda, showing that the hand behind the killings was the AK Party and reactionary organizations," the plan reads. Erdal Doğan, one of the co-plaintiffs in the case, called for light to be shed on the killings of the three Christians in Malatya.
In April 2007, Necati Aydın (35), Uğur Yüksel and German national Tilman Geske (46) were tied to chairs, tortured and stabbed at the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya before their throats were slit. The publishing house they worked for printed Bibles and Christian literature. Nine men have been charged with the murders, and seven of them are in jail. Yesterday's hearing was attended by the victims' families, their lawyers and members of domestic and foreign press.
The first indictment on Ergenekon was also added to the Malatya case in 2008. Evidence collected in the Ergenekon investigation suggested that the brutal killings might have been organized by Ergenekon, which is suspected of a large number of murders and bombings aimed at creating chaos in the country to serve the organization's ultimate purpose of overthrowing the government.
The investigation into Ergenekon, a behind-the-scenes network attempting to use social and psychological engineering to shape the country in accordance with its own ultra-nationalist ideology, began in 2007, when a house in İstanbul's Ümraniye district that was being used as an arms depot was discovered by police.
Points from additional Cage folders
The additional folders of evidence related to the Cage indictment were distributed to the suspects' lawyers on Wednesday. They link the killings of Dink, Santoro and the three Christians in Malatya with the Cage plan. According to the evidence in the folders, the murders aimed to trigger the question in society of whether non-Muslim residents in Turkey were safe.
"When the impact of the killings on society is examined, it is seen that they were aiming to show that minority groups and non-Muslim residents in the country were in danger in Turkey and as if they were the target of reactionary groups. The killings also hoped to make non-Muslims believe that they could be the target of similar attacks at any time," the additional evidence argues.
It also indicates that the probe into the killing of Dink has not gone beyond the capture of the suspected gunman, Ogün Samast.
Dink was gunned down on Jan. 19, 2007 in broad daylight in front of the headquarters of the bilingual Armenian weekly Agos, where he was editor-in-chief. Police arrested Samast and an associate, Yasin Hayal, a few days later. There are a total of 20 suspects in the case, eight of whom are currently under arrest. Following Dink's murder, numerous reports suggested that the police had been tipped off about the planned assassination more than once before his murder but had failed to prevent it.
"It has been revealed that the suspected murderer of Dink is Ogün Samast, who was 17 years old at the time. In line with Samast's statements, the instigators and planners of the killing, Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel, were also captured. However, the probe has failed to go deeper," the evidence notes.
Explosives placed in submarine
The additional folders also include evidence related to blocks of TNT and other explosives placed at the bottom of a submarine exhibited at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum. The explosives were found by police in July based on a plan outlined in the Cage plot. They were to be detonated while a group of students was visiting the museum.
According to the folders, the explosives were placed in an apparatus that determined the depth of the submarine.
The insertion of the explosives into the submarine was reportedly coordinated by retired Adm. Ahmet Feyyaz Öğütçü, whose name appears in Cage plan documents as "the president." He was forced to retire after a Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting last August, reportedly due to his suspected ties with an illegal organization. The Cage plan suggests that the explosion should occur on a day when the museum was visited by a large group of students. "Materials to be planted at the museum have reached operators. We should increase the number of visitors to the museum. C.G. will tell us when the visitor intensity at the museum is the highest. We should accelerate publicity and organization activities [regarding the museum] in schools. Students are the most important elements of this project. We should confirm the day of the operation," read one of the documents.
The additional evidence also points to Vice Adm. Kadir Sağdıç and Rear Adm. Mehmet Fatih İlğar as the "number two and three men" behind the plot. The two were interrogated in February by İzmir prosecutors as part of the probe into Ergenekon.
The Cage indictment calls for jail sentences of up to 15 years for Adm. Öğütçü, Vice Adm. Sağdıç and Rear Adm. İlğar on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. It also seeks lengthy prison sentences for 30 other defendants on similar charges. The suspects will stand trial on June 15.
The folders also include the testimonies of naval officers whose names are mentioned in the Cage indictment regarding an interrogation of Cage suspects by the Naval Forces Command. According to the folders, Emre Tepeli, a noncommissioned officer, told civilian prosecutors conducting the Cage probe that they were questioned by two Naval Forces Command officers about the suspected plan on Aug. 13, 2009.
"They asked me to tell all I knew about the Cage plan. I said I knew nothing about it. They did not give me any information about the plan," Tepeli said. Another noncommissioned officer, Hüseyin Erol, said he told the naval officers that he had heard about the Cage plan when he was invited to the naval base in Gölcük in August 2009. Col. Levent Gülmen also said he was questioned by the Naval Forces Command about the plan.