Inside Turkey's intelligence crisis

Now Reading:

Inside Turkey's intelligence crisis

Text size Aa Aa

Turkey’s top intelligence officials are the latest subjects of a series of judicial inquiries.

They include the acting head of the Turkish National Intelligence Service (MIT), Hakan Fidan, who is a close aide to the prime minister.

This follows last week’s tussle between the government and prosecutors. Government officials removed prosecutors who has summoned Hakan Fidan and others involved with Turkey’s so-called ‘opening policy’ when talks were held with PKK members.

Prosecutors had accused Hakan Fidan, his predecessor and an aide of involving KCK operations, which is the umbrella organisation of the Kurdish separatist movement.

The prosecutor’s request to interview Fidan and the others was resisted by the government. The president and the prime minister blocked the investigation and the ruling party is working on a new law designed to stop the arbitrary arrest of top officials.

If the law passes top security officials will not be able to be brought to justice without the specific permission of the prime minister. The legislation will include the Chief of Staff of Turkey’s military.

This is being interpreted as a sign of the deepening rift between the government and the forces of status quo, the first sign of which was the arrest of retired General Ilker Basbug. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and a large number of government officials have criticised the court’s decision and have said they would have preferred a trial without arrest.

The roots of this conflict lie in Erdogan’s policy of ‘Kurdish opening’ or ‘democratic opening which started two years ago.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) moved to try to stop bloodshed in South East Turkey by ordering the interior minister Besir Atalay to start talks with Kurdish intellectuals and politicians. The initiative did not last long. It ended after a number of PKK members who were allowed to return to Turkey from Iraq received a hero’s welcome.

This angered many Turks, particularly the families and friends of soldiers who had been killed in fighting with the PKK. There was also resistance from those who saw the initiative as “dangerous” to the unity of Turkey.

The initiative included talking with the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, who is in prison, and representatives of the organisation.

The release of secret recordings of meetings with PKK members in Oslo at that time also caused outrage in nationalist circles.

Ali Bayramoglu, a liberal columnist from Yeni Safak says the prosecutors summoned the high level intelligence officials to send a message to the prime minister. Safak told euronews: “This earthquake is a reflection of a power struggle among high level officials.”

Can Dundar, an opponent of the government, who writes for the newspaper Milliyet, agrees: “Prosecutors wants to question not the intelligence officials but the decision of the government to open dialogue with the PKK.”

It seems Fidan will probably not testify and will get a legal cover to avoid the problem. But another the aspect of this crisis is that it will create a new group of “untouchable” elites.

Bora Bayraktar, Istanbul