Timeline: Turkey’s ‘deep state’

Al Jazeera looks at the country’s history of coup plots and the mysterious “deep state”.

Turkey protest
Demonstrators hold placards at an anti-Ergenekon rally [EPA]

Nato – primarily the United States – helps set up and fund secret “counter-communist invasion resistance cells” in Turkey as part of the Cold War. These cells are believed to lay the foundations of what later becomes known as the “deep state”.

May 27, 1960:
First military coup staged against the ruling Democratic Party.

March 12, 1971:
Second military coup.

Bulent Ecevit, the-then prime minister, is the first politician to admit to the existence of secret paramilitary organistaions in Turkey that are “within the government”.
These become known as the “deep state”.

February 1, 1979:
Mehmet Ali Agca, who goes on to carry out an attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981, kills Abdi Ipekci, a human rights activist and editor-in-chief of newspaper Miliyet.

September 12, 1980:
Third military coup.

January 24, 1993:
Investigative journalist Ugur Mumcu is killed by a car bomb.

November 1996: 

in depth

Timeline: Evolution of Turkey’s ‘deep state’

  Documentation: ‘Sledgehammer plot’
  Documentation: ‘Cage plot’
  Analysis: Trial exposes Turkey’s secret operations 

A traffic accident near the western town of Susurluk reveals the existence of a “deep state” link between the state, the police and the criminal underworld.

Sitting inside the crashed car is the former deputy head of Istanbul police, a wanted ultra-nationalist hitman carrying false identity papers issued by state authorities, a former beauty queen and an MP from the-then ruling party, who was the only survivor.

In the boot of the vehicle, hand guns, ammunition and a silencer are uncovered. A number of investigations and public inquiries ensue, but shed little light on the saga.

February 28, 1997:
Military issues a memorandum that ousts the coalition government. The event has been called the fourth military coup, virtual coup, and postmodern coup.

The name “Ergenekon” is first used in reference to the deep state.

First official document related to Ergenekon is found.

Tuncay Guney, an eccentric character of dubious credentials, is brought in on ordinary fraud charges, and tells Istanbul police about Ergenekon. His questioning forms the basis of the first Ergenekon indictment.

January 18, 2007:
Armenian human rights journalist Hrant Dink is shot dead in front of the offices of his newspaper Agos.

March 25, 2007:
Nokta, a political magazine, publishes the Coup Diaries chronicling plans to stage a military take over. The magazine is shut down almost a month later. The diaries form the basis of the second Ergenekon indictment.

April 18, 2007:
Three Christians are killed in an attack at a publishing house in Malatya. The case is later merged with Ergenekon on November 21, 2008.

January 21, 2008:
Thirty-one people are arrested following the first Ergenekon indictment including a retired general and columnist.

October 21, 2008:
The first Ergenekon trial begins.

March 21, 2008:
More generals and columnists are detained.

July 5, 2008:
More retired generals are arrested.

July 23, 2008:
A new wave of arrests in the Ergenekon investigation leads to 26 people being detained around the country, including senior members of the Workers’ Party, and staff members of a nationalist magazine.

14 August 2008:
In another round of arrests, police find large amounts of explosives and weapons (two Kalashnikovs, 1,000 bullets, 1,000 empty bullets and 280 hand grenades).

23 September 2008:
Sixteen more people are detained including a former police chief, a former mayor and journalists.

January 7, 8 2009:
More people are detained, including academics and generals, and more arms caches are unearthed at various places.

January 22, 2009:
Twenty police officers are detained in connection to Ergenekon.

March 08, 2009:
Death wells are discovered in the Cizre district of Sirnak. On March 14, 22 bones, a human skull and some clothes fragments are found in the wells.
March 10, 2009:
Second Ergenekon indictment is submitted.

June 4, 2009:
Army officers are arrested as part of an investigation into the ammunition found in Poyrazköy. Twenty people, including 16 army officers on active duty, were detained in simultaneous operations conducted in five Turkish provinces.

July 20, 2009:
The Istanbul Criminal Court begins trying 56 suspects under the second indictment of the Ergenekon probe. The 1,909-page indictment includes accusations against 56 suspects including retired generals.

July 20, 2009:
Third indictment submitted to the court. The 1,454 page document indicts 52 people – 37 of whom are under arrest. The suspects were arrested between January 10, 2009 and April 17, 2009.

November 19, 2009:
Cage, or Kafes, coup plan is revealed by daily newspaper Taraf.

January 20, 2010:
The Sledgehammer, or Balyoz, coup plan revealed to the public through Taraf.

February 22, 2010:
About 50 retired and current military officials are detained because of their alleged involvement with the Sledgehammer plan.

Source: Al Jazeera