In his first testimony to the Ergenekon prosecutors in 2008, Hilmi Özkök said he had known about coup plots, but did not have enough evidence to do anything.
Former army chief Hilmi Özkök’s testimony in the Ergenekon coup-plot hearings represents a significant landmark in the four-year-old case, as he breaks his silence about coup attempts and the role of his former comrades.
The court did not announce when Özkök would testify before the Silivri Court, which has been trying in the alleged Ergenekon gang case since 2007. Ergenekon is an alleged illegal organization composed of high-level military officers, bureaucrats, journalists and academics that aimed to topple the government in 2003-2004.
Özkök, who commanded the military from 2002 to 2006, still stands as the most critical figure with the most information about this organization, the most senior figures of which were his land forces commander, Aytaç Yalman; air forces commander, İbrahim Fırtına; navy commander, Özden Örnek; and gendarmerie forces commander, Şener Eruygur.
Known as the “democrat general” with a “very good” relationship with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Özkök is believed to be the one who nixed the plans of the plotters during his term as the Chief of General Staff.
In his first testimony to the Ergenekon prosecutors in 2008, Özkök said he had known about coup plots, but did not have enough evidence to do anything. “I knew of the Ayışığı [moonlight] and Yakamoz [phosphoresce in the sea] issues. I received some information but could not take action for lack of evidence,” he said.
Büyükanıt remains cool
The Ergenekon case has become a giant lawsuit as it has been merged with other similar plot cases with more than 350 accused, nearly half of them arrested, including former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, lawmakers Mustafa Balbay, İbrahim Haberal and dozens of on-duty high-ranking military officers. The fact that Özkök, along with his successor Yaşar Büyükanıt, remained cool on accusations against high-ranking officers alleged to be members of terrorist organizations drew reactions from his former comrades.
Retired General Şükrü Sarıışık, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council (MGK) who is now under arrest in the Balyoz case, another lawsuit probing coup attempts against the government, said during a hearing that the commanders like Özkök and Büyükanıt are responsible for everything that occurs in the army. “They should give answers,” he said. “At the War Academy, we swore to be together until death; they should stand behind their words.”