Former military chief admits illegal actions by military in new recording

by editor | 26th August 2011 7:35 am

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Former Chief of General Staff Gen. I??k Ko?aner is seen delivering a speech in this May 19, 2011 photo. (Photo: AA)
Following the emergence of a voice recording allegedly featuring the voice of former chief of General Staff Gen. I??k Ko?aner, in which the former military chief confessed several shortcomings of the Turkish military in its fight against terror, Ko?aner admits in a second voice recording published online on Thursday that the military did violate laws.
A second voice recording that includes alleged statements made by former military chief Gen. I??k Ko?aner and posted online refers to a number of ongoing investigations into alleged anti-democratic efforts by some members of the military to destabilize the civilian government through acts of chaos in the society
The first recording dropped onto Turkey’s agenda like a bombshell as the alleged voice of Ko?aner was heard listing the reasons behind the military’s fatal failures in the fight against terrorism. The second recording was again posted online on and included shocking comments by the former military chief on a number of issues.

Ko?aner allegedly confesses in the recording that the Turkish military transgressed the law on many issues, but that “some betrayers” within the military revealed these illegal actions. Addressing a group of military officers, the voice in the recording refers to him as “I, I??k Ko?aner,” which may indicate that the voice indeed belongs to the former military chief. Ko?aner has not denied the two recordings so far.

“The reason for our problematic situation today is ourselves. We made mistakes. We did wrong things. We did not take our job seriously. We could not protect our documents; we let them be stolen. They heard our speeches. We spoke here and there. We did not pay attention to what we signed. We stored unnecessary information on our computers. They [civilian prosecutors] came, searched and found many things. Now we are unable to give account for those things. We acted outside the law and regulations. We thought we could go ahead like that. But betrayers emerged among us. We cannot find them, unfortunately. Yes, we did act outside the law. We had to do so during some periods.

But we continued to do so and used the things we are not authorized to have. We still have them. But some corrupt colleagues emerged among us. We cannot find them either,” he says. The alleged voice refers to a number of ongoing investigations into alleged anti-democratic efforts by some members of the military to destabilize the civilian government. Currently, there are dozens of military officers, including retired and active duty generals, under arrest as part of these investigations, which were mainly launched thanks to whistleblowers within the military.

Another striking part in the recording is the one in which the alleged voice of Ko?aner confirms that documents detailing the Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan, which mentions a systematic plan by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to create chaos in society by bombing mosques and attacking popular museums with Molotov cocktails, are authentic. The recording comes as yet another refutation of earlier claims that the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plan was fabricated and that the records of a 2003 military seminar were manipulated to discredit the armed forces.

Ko?aner says in the recording that all the documents regarding the Sledgehammer plan were thought to have been destroyed by the military, but they saw them in the indictment prepared by civilian prosecutors into the plan. “The aspect of the Sledgehammer story that upsets us is that we got all we have in the 1st Army stolen. We got all we had regarding the seminar stolen, including our voice recordings, were obtained by unauthorized people. This is the real shame. How could this happen? The guys have everything we spoke about. We were involved in this shame. There can also be criminal parts of the story. I have doubts about that,” he says.

According to the Sledgehammer documents, the desired result of the plan was to increase pressure on the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government for failing to provide security for its citizens. The attacks were to eventually lead to a military coup. The plan was drawn up in 2003 and discussed in a seminar held at the General Staff’s Selimiye barracks in March of that year. The General Staff has denied that the Sledgehammer plot was the subject of a seminar, saying they have no record of such an incident, and it defended itself by claiming the Sledgehammer plan was merely a war game.

Currently, there are nearly 200 retired and serving members of the TSK who are under arrest on charges of involvement in the Sledgehammer plan. All of the suspects are accused of a failed attempt to destroy Parliament and overthrow the government. Such a charge calls for a jail sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

‘We do not need a written Article 35 to protect our people’

The recording, if it indeed features the voice of Ko?aner, also reveals the military’s unwillingness to a change or abolish Article 35 of the TSK’s Internal Service Code, which gives the military the authority to take measures “to protect and guard the Republic of Turkey.” The law is believed to offer legal justification for the several coups the military has carried out in the past decades.

“It does not matter who says what. They are saying they would abolish Article 35 or bring another one. This does not need to be written anywhere either. We, as the TSK, exist for that purpose [to guard the Republic]. This is our natural and historical duty. Nobody can advise us on that issue. Nobody can oppose this either,” Ko?aner says. The article has long been a matter of controversy in Turkey as it served as a legal basis for past coups and there are growing calls from the public to abolish the article.

‘We are working for tax exemption of OYAK’

Mentioning “some other issues that put the TSK in trouble nowadays,” Ko?aner also revealed that the military seeks to maintain the privileges provided for Turkey’s military-run Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Center (OYAK), which is exempted from a number of taxes and levies. Unlike other companies, OYAK does not pay corporate tax, inheritance tax, income tax or stamp and excise duty.

OYAK, originally established by the military officers who overthrew the government on May 27, 1960 with a view to providing additional income for members of the TSK, has now become one of the largest conglomerates in the country. “They [the government] want to accept OYAK as a public institution. You know we are exempted from some taxes. But, if we become a public institution, that is what the [Public Procurement Authority] K?K wants and a court already ruled against us; we will be obliged to pay taxes and there will be a decrease in our pension salaries by about 15 percent. We are now working to prevent that. I want you to know that,” he says.

In the recording, Ko?aner also warns a group of military officers he addresses against a recently amended law that enables civilian oversight of military expenditures. “You know the Law on the Court of Accounts has changed. Be very careful. The money issues are now more serious. The Court of Accounts will inspect us. There may be problems. Never go beyond what the regulations say,” he warns.

It has long been a controversy whether military dining facilities (orduevi), night clubs and canteens in Turkey are being operated efficiently. The new Law on the Court of Accounts, which went into effect after its approval by President Abdullah Gül late last year, has subordinated the Higher Inspection Board (YDK), which audits State Economic Enterprises (K?Ts), to the Court of Accounts. Now all state institutions, including the TSK, can be inspected by the Court of Accounts.

‘Stay out of the media, do not tell journalists anything’

The former military chief also dwells on the relations of military officer with the media and advises them to have no contact with journalists, at whom he directs insulting remarks. “Stay out of the media. Journalists sell their own mother to report a story. Never say anything to journalists because they will make a big deal out of what you said. We are telling the press what it is necessary to tell,” he says.

General Staff pursues post-recording strategy of silence

Although alleged statements by former Chief of General Staff Gen. I??k Ko?aner, in an audio recording in which he confessed to the military’s flaws in the fight against terrorism, have found extensive coverage in the Turkish media since Tuesday, neither Ko?aner nor the General Staff or the Defense Ministry have yet made any statements denying the recording. The silence by Ko?aner and the commanders with whom he spoke in the recording has led to comments that this may be part of a strategy to allow the allegations to be forgotten over time, the Radikal daily reported on Thursday. As a routine procedure, the General Staff launched an investigation into the allegations about the voice recording and civilian prosecutors have compiled the news reports about the voice recording and handed them to the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office. If the prosecutor’s office takes action, the cour-se of major cases in which military members are being tried may be changed, said Radikal.

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