The Dec. 17 and Dec. 25, 2013 government corruption operations were used as a pretext for a massive purge of the National Police Department, and the purge lists had been prepared in advance by Iranian-backed terror group Tawhid-Selam, according to former Hakkari province Police Chief Tufan Ergüder.
In remarks to Sunday's Zaman, former Police Chief Ergüder said the massive purges in many parts of Turkey show that these purges have nothing to do with the corruption operations.
“What does it have to do with police officers in Hakkari? Why are Van and Siirt relevant?” he asked, claiming that foreign elements that have infiltrated critical state institutions prepared the purge. He says the purge's targeting of not just police officers but also officers in other institutions is also another indication that the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 operations were used as a tool to justify the illegal purge of police officers.
Like former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, Ergüder upholds that a small oligarchic group is responsible for the illegal operations against the police officers involved in an investigation of Tawhid-Selam. According to Ergüder, who has served various roles in the İstanbul Police Department, this group also took care of the Tawhid-Selam file. Ergüder says the real parallel structure --an accusation made by the government about the Hizmet movement, a faith-based civil society organization, as the alleged source of an attempt to overthrow the government -- is Tawhid-Selam, which has infiltrated critical institutions, the Kurdistan Communities' Union (KCK) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Southeast.
Former Police Chief Ergüder resigned from his post in reaction to the purge of police officers that occurred after the bribery and corruption investigations of Dec. 17 and Dec. 25. In his letter of resignation, sent on Feb. 27, Ergüder noted that police officers had been sent into exile, discriminated against and constantly insulted since the Dec. 17 operation, adding that favoritism and a passive culture had become dominant. Sunday's Zaman interviewed Ergüder about the July 22 operations in which numerous police officers were detained and the Tawhid-Selam file.
You had served in Hakkari for 28 months before resigning; why did you make that decision?
I told the administration that what they had done was wrong. In the end, we are an institution serving the people; by doing so [what the government did], you tie the hands of police chiefs and governors. There was a system of operations; you are disrupting this. After doing this, it is really hard to create a new system and make police officers work effectively.
What kind of system was that?
The officers working in those units were selected on the basis of their performance. Hüseyin Çapkın first implemented this system. Based on their performance, police officers were evaluated and then offered a position in the units they chose. Their job performance is taken into consideration. For instance, if drug-related crimes are important in İstanbul, the performance of a police officer is measured in relation to this. For example, an officer who catches a thief receives 10 points. This is how the ranking was done. This is the system applied in Hakkari as well. A number of provinces use the same system. Officers who are promoted by their performance make the greatest effort. They [the government] sent those officers away and they felt offended because they had performed well. They had been pretty successful. Everybody has a goal. Some want to work in the narcotics department, some in the counter-terror department and some in the intelligence department. If you adopt such a system, you promote hard work and dedication and discourage nepotism and favoritism. This is how it is done in the world. The FBI uses the same procedures and methods. They pick up those who show good performance.
Is it possible that a so-called "parallel structure" has taken over such a system? Is it possible to favor some people in such a setting?
You cannot refer to a "parallel structure" in this system. They work hard. You should observe them; the safety and security units are known to have “eagle eyes,” and they have done their best in İstanbul. Let me give you an example: In 2008, the number of drug-related crimes was 5,000. Since Çapkın [left], the number of narcotics crimes reached 60,000. Can you look at the police capacity there? Why were they working so hard? Because they wanted to succeed so that they could pick the place where they work. This system was destroyed.
The system disappeared; I do not know how they appoint police officers. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of crimes across the entire country. A new system has not been introduced. We do not know how they appoint the officers. The criteria have not been clarified.
Why were such a huge number of police officers purged? Are they being punished for investigating corruption in the Dec. 17 operation?
I do not think there were any problems in the corruption investigation in İstanbul. Assume that there were; how many people would you remove from their posts? What does it have to do with police officers in Hakkari? Why are Van and Siirt relevant? There have been massive purges in different parts of Turkey. What is the link between the police in İstanbul and the police in Hakkari? And the purges are not limited to police departments. There have been purges in other institutions as well.
On what basis have they purged public officials?
They had prepared to do it.
I believe they had prepared lists for the purges well before Dec. 17. They profiled people.
Who did this?
Foreign elements that have infiltrated critical state institutions; they are Turkish citizens, but they have been manipulated by foreign units. Eventually, they will be exposed. They carried out these purges.
Is there really a small group of oligarchic figures, as referred to by former Interior Minister Şahin? Do you think they are responsible for these purges?
Yes, there is such a group. They influence the government, and they are behind these purges. They purge everybody whom they consider as their rivals. Not only police officers but also patriotic officials are being purged everywhere. They made all the preparations well before the corruption operations. I think they used the Dec. 17 operation as a pretext to carry out their plans. Two days after Dec. 17, they removed all departmental heads. In 10 days they purged half the police chiefs. They constantly change the police officers in İstanbul. These purges were followed by the reappointments of judges and prosecutors. In two months, 10,000 officers were reappointed. So they were not reappointed just because they were involved in the Dec. 17 operations. Lists for these purges had been drafted well before this operation.
What if there had been no operation on Dec. 17?
They would have done this anyway, but it would have taken some more time.
They must be quite powerful to do this; how did they become so powerful?
The figures of political Islam in Turkey are trying to imitate the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. They travel back and forth to Iran. These [the political Islamists] were actually young college students; they were pretty enthusiastic at the beginning. They thought they could do the same thing in Turkey as well. And of course, Iran has close contact with them. They transformed these young people mentally. These young men who traveled and stayed there to study now hold crucial positions within the state. Now they consider it the right time to take action. And the prime minister was also prepared to believe their arguments.
Why was the Tawhid-Selam file shelved?
Iranian agents learned of the Tawhid-Selam investigation. They saw this as a huge threat. Who I am talking about? I am talking about the elements that infiltrated the state. They feared that they would be exposed. They drafted an operation plan.
Erdoğan and some Cabinet members have argued that Tawhid-Selam is a fabricated organization. It has been argued that the police wiretapped 7,000 people illegally.
Well, the Court of Appeals delivered a judgment recognizing Tawhid-Selam as a terror organization. It is a terror organization; there is no doubt. They committed 18 crimes. They are responsible for the murders of Uğur Mumcu and Bahriye Üçok.
But many years have passed since those murders; were people not aware of the group until this investigation?
This is a very serious organization that is well aware of police methods and tactics. Let me tell you something that people will hear for the first time. A bomb was detonated on May 26, 2011 on the İstanbul Etiler Bridge. This was a bomb placed on an electric bicycle. It became apparent that this was a handmade bomb. Eight people were wounded in the explosion. The police identified the perpetrator by reviewing the surveillance camera footage. It was an Iranian who was renting a place in Kocamustafapaşa. He began renting this store in May of 2010. Based on a statement from the real estate agent, it became apparent that this Iranian person, Rızazade Metin, had another place. His statement was taken. The police identified that this other store was owned by the person who supplied the explosives used in the murder of Mumcu. The police established a link between Rızazade Metin and this A. Ç., who had received explosives training in Iran.
Is this organization still active?
Well, they committed a crime in May, so this shows that they are still active. And there is also this detail: A guy made a bomb in a store and then he placed it in an apartment's toilet pipe and detonated it. The explosion caused a flood of sewage. The affected part was the first floor. He made the residents of the apartment building clean it up. This guy is so professional that he made the residents clean up the place where he made the bomb [thus destroying the evidence]. That is how professional they are.
Some commentators have argued that this is an amateurish organization.
If that is the case, then it should have been prosecuted; normally, this operation should have been carried out. You see that they are carrying out this operation against the police. If an operation were conducted against this organization, we would see what it looks like. Now all the Iranian agents have left Turkey. If former Counterterror Unit Chief Yurt Atayün had performed this operation, they would all have been caught. They would have been caught red-handed. The police officers who have been taken into custody are not spies; they are hunters of spies.
Is it possible for Atayün to reopen this file?
Turkey cannot make any progress unless it resolves the Tawhid-Selam case. These people are so influential that they could make Turkey go to war. We are not sure whether Turkey's future choices will serve its interests. For this reason, this file should be reviewed by competent judges. This file had not been discussed until July 22. The prosecutor closed the file. How? They did not conduct an operation against the suspects at their addresses. They were called by phone to the precinct. They stopped by with their lawyers, and then they walked away.
What do you say to the allegation that the police illegally tapped 7,000 people during the Tawhid-Selam investigation?
It is a total lie. The prosecutor of the investigation has dismissed this allegation. The judge decided that the 251 suspects in the case were no longer suspects. You do the math. If you decide to tap somebody, that means that you have identified him as suspect. So if you drop him from the case, this means that you have tapped him. Now they would have dropped the names of 7,000 people from the file. There is no such thing. These are people who these suspects called on the phone. But they are not targets. Through these reports they attempted to cover up the charges and undermine the image of those who had carried out the operation.
Why did they pick July 22?
Everything changed after [Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's nomination. He might have been either the president or a prime minister who lost the election. In both cases, his role would have changed. They were unable to take risks. They carried out the operation when the time was proper to do so. Actually, we were expecting a big operation against the police officers who had conducted the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 operations. No, for them, Tawhid-Selam is crucial. For this reason, they conducted an operation against those who had investigated the Tawhid-Selam case. All these actions were pre-planned.
A second wave of operations was also carried out. Did it achieve its goals?
I do not think that July 22 was successful. July 22 backfired; it is an unsuccessful operation in the eyes of the people. The operation will be remembered for illegal practices and violations of rights. These are serious. Laws are being violated. And we have this “Run, Ismail, run” incident.
Who is this Ismail?
It is reported that he works for the intelligence agency; but his name is not Ismail.
Is he working for the National Intelligence Organization (MİT)?
That is what reports indicate. But they have not exposed Ismail. They gave a press statement. But it is not enough. There was also another civilian asking questions in the second operation. This is like Nazi practices. Prosecutors and judges are not independent. We are heading toward an intelligence state.
What is the message delivered by the images of the arrested police officers in handcuffs?
They wanted to do this harshly; they wanted to teach us a lesson. Special instructions were sent from Ankara. They wanted to show that they were powerful. But the dignified stance of the police undid their plans.
From what you said, I understand that there is another parallel structure within the state?
The true parallel structure is Tawhid-Selam. This is the parallel structure of the country.
And there have also been references to the KCK as a parallel state in the past?
It was the KCK that was referred to as a parallel structure in the first place.
Is the KCK a parallel structure?
They have even had district governors, and they had governors appointed by the central decision-making body. They have an armed unit. The KCK is not composed of a few lawyers and politicians. They have a strong hierarchy. They have a local and national organizational structure. They levy taxes and recruit soldiers. They have courts; we have seized many court documents. They have a judiciary.
Where will the settlement process lead?
The government has taken some serious steps. The security forces have not conducted any operations over the last two years. They have made laws.
How about the PKK?
They have many camps in the countryside and in urban areas of the southeast; they have not laid down their arms. They place excessive pressure on people and collect money through extortion. They have kidnapped a number of kids, and they have sent many militants to Rojava. They are recruiting new militants as replacements. I doubt that the PKK has good intentions. The PKK has done nothing so far.
Those who were released after the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases support the operation against the police. How do you comment on this?
Some say that they are responsible for this operation. Others admit that they handed over the list of people to be arrested. There is some sort of cooperation. There are shifts in their alignments. This alliance will determine the direction of Turkey.
Are there concerns that these operations will continue?
They will continue as long as the structure responsible for the operations retains its power. But they failed on July 22. Despite the pressure and violations, the police officers behaved heroically. They submitted to the judiciary; they are confident that they have done nothing wrong. They say they have done everything in compliance with the law. They conducted the investigations by the book. They conducted investigations under the existing laws, but somebody is calling this a coup attempt. Well, this is not a coup. If you call it a coup, then no state system remains. You are creating the right conditions for pro-Iranian figures.
The prosecutor has said they will arrest 500,000 people if necessary. I believe that he did not say this on his own initiative. He was told to make this statement. So he did.
How have the recent purges and arrests affected the police?
People believe that this is temporary. So, they are patient.
Is it temporary?
The brutality cannot go on like this. They will not succeed. The Anatolian people will become aware of the truth. Election victory is not an indicator. The real indicator is the conscience of the Anatolian people. I believe that this is being realized now. I hope that these fellows will serve this nation and country.
How will these operations affect the police?
If terror organizations become active, this will cause a lot of trouble. The memory of the police has been erased. These officers were trained in tough conditions. They respect the law and human rights. They have shown that they deserve these positions. These people did nothing but work hard. They prevented a number of attacks. They identified the perpetrators of many murders.
Tufan Ergüder graduated from Police College in 1984 and the Police Academy in 1988. After studying law at Ankara University, he received his master's degree from the Middle East Public Administration Institute and became a public administration specialist. He has worked at the Ankara, Şırnak and İstanbul police departments. Ergüder was assigned Hakkari province police chief in November 2011. He took part in the important Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations. He resigned from his post in February in reaction to the ongoing operation being carried out against members of the police force.
Published on Today's Zaman, 16 August 2014, Saturday