Source – mondediplo.com
– “… The report also describes how the Turkish government handed over the security of a huge area – around the towns of Siverek and Hilvan – to the private army of tribal chief Sedat Bucak, a member of parliament close to the former prime minister, Tansu Çiller, who thus acquired the power of life and death over the area’s inhabitants”:
IN THE SHADOW OF GENERALS, HIRED KILLERS AND DRUG TRAFFICKERS Turkey’s pivotal role in the international drug trade
In August 1998 General Ismail Hakki Karadayi comes to the end of his term as chief of staff of Turkey’s armed forces. His five years in this post have been marked by the increasing role played by military officers in all aspects of Turkey’s political life, from the Kurdish question to relations with Greece and the ongoing struggle against the Islamists. There has also been a state-sponsored growth of mafia activities related to the drugs trade and many murders of opposition politicians and civil rights campaigners.
The attempted murder on 12 May this year of Akin Birdal, president of the Turkish Human Rights Association, has reopened the debate on the activities of the criminal networks which have flourished under the protection of the Turkish authorities. The attempt took place in Ankara a few weeks after a speech he made before a hearing of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), of which he is vice-president, drawing wide public attention to what is going on in Turkey. Mr Birdal had protested that “In Spain, the 28 murders committed by the GAL have become a matter of concern at the highest government level, whereas in Turkey, which likes to present itself as a law-abiding state and which is seeking admission to the European Union, not one single perpetrator of more than 4,500 unsolved murders carried out since 1991 – the so-called ’faili mesul cinayetleri’- has thus far been arrested. In my country, the murderers are on the streets and the intellectuals are behind bars.”
In a report published on 28 January 1997, the Turkish government’s chief inspector described how, in the juridical no-man’s land of Kurdish south-eastern Turkey, the army’s “special war” units were not just killing with impunity, but had also become involved in protection rackets, blackmail, rape and drug trafficking (1). The report also describes how the Turkish government handed over the security of a huge area – around the towns of Siverek and Hilvan – to the private army of tribal chief Sedat Bucak, a member of parliament close to the former prime minister, Tansu Çiller, who thus acquired the power of life and death over the area’s inhabitants.
This warlord politician was, incidentally, the sole survivor of a road accident in November 1996 near Susurluk on the road from Izmir to Istanbul (2). He had been travelling together with a chief of police and a well-known far-right Turkish mafia boss, Abdullah Çatli, who had been implicated in the attempted assassination of the Pope, was sought by Interpol for drug trafficking, and was wanted by the Turkish state for the murder of seven left-wing militants.
For the people of Turkey, Susurluk has become synonymous with the Turkish state’s slide into mafia activities. It has prompted repeated calls for a “clean-up” in the upper echelons of the state. The public outcry has not been satisfied by the setting up of a parliamentary commission, nor by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz’s long TV appearance on 23 January 1997, in which he commented on the report which had just been submitted to him. These are seen just as attempts to cover up the extent of the gangrene eating at the very heart of the state – particularly because the political and police figures under suspicion are still very much at large, and are claiming that they acted on orders from high-up in the state apparatus (3).
The government’s chief inspector accuses a man by name of Yesil, known as “the Terminator”, of having been responsible for at least nineteen killings, including that of a member of parliament, Mehmet Sincar. He also accuses him of having kidnapped – from the entrance to the State Security Court in Diyarbakir – two young women, Sükran Mizgin and Zeynep Baka, whom he raped and savagely tortured before killing them.
The report states that the Terminator “acting in the full knowledge of the MIT [National Intelligence Organisation], one of whose chiefs he called ‘baba’ [father], was able to run a bank account in Ankara, through which passed huge sums of money deriving from protection rackets and drug trafficking”. Carrying papers supplied by the prime minister’s intelligence office, this criminal left Turkey on 23 October 1996 and headed for Beirut, in the company of two MIT agents travelling on diplomatic passports – and, in the process, was received in the VIP lounge at Istanbul airport normally reserved for the prime minister. In such a situation, it is not possible just to talk of “events beyond our control” or “policy errors”.
Another police serial-killer, Ayhan Çarkin, was interrogated by the MIT on 28 August 1998. He said: “I have been charged with being involved in 91 murders in eastern and south-eastern Turkey. My interrogators have told me ’We know about that, and nobody is holding that against you. But why did you kidnap Omer Luftu Topal [the casino king]? On your own account? Do you know that you are serving a political master? Namely Prime Minister Tansu Çiller and Mehmet Agar, director-general of the national police.’”
Mrs Çiller’s blustering statement on 4 October 1993 has often been cited: “We know the list of businessmen and artists subjected to racketeering by the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and we shall be bringing their members to account.” Beginning on 14 January 1994, almost a hundred people were individually picked up by commandos wearing uniforms and travelling in police vehicles. They were then killed somewhere along the road from Ankara to Istanbul, in the “satanic triangle” of Kocaeli, a fiefdom of the far-right mafia and a focal point for the trafficking of heroin into Europe.
The operative head of the special operations bureau, who has been directly implicated in these killings, was Abdullah Çatli, who was close to the former prime minister – she paid him fulsome tribute after his death in the Susurluk accident. He is reckoned to have been one of the main perpetrators of underground operations carried out by the Turkish branch of the Gladio (4) organisation and had played a key role in the bloody events of the period 1976-80 which paved the way for the military coup d’état of September 1980. As the young head of the far-right Grey Wolves militia, he had been accused, among other things, of the murder of seven left-wing students.
A “great patriot”
Abdullah Çatli is accused of having organised the escape from prison and flight to Europe of Mehmet Ali Agça, the man held responsible for the murder of the editor of the liberal daily paper Milliyet. He was also reportedly the person who, at the request of Turkish mafia chief Bekir Celenk, organised the assassination attempt on the Pope, in exchange for the sum of 3 million marks for his gang. He was also seen in the company of Stefano Della Chiaie, of the Italian branch of Gladio, while touring Latin America and on a visit to Miami in September 1982. He took refuge in France and there, under the assumed name of Hasan Kurtoglu, he resumed his services for the Turkish state, which put him in charge of a series of attacks on Armenian interests and on Asala, the Armenian liberation movement. These included the blowing up of the Armenian monument at Alfortville on 3 May 1984 and the attempted murder of activist Ara Toronian.
The MIT paid him in heroin, and it was for drug trafficking that he was eventually arrested in Paris on 24 October 1984. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and in 1988 he was handed over to Switzerland, where he was also wanted on charges of drug dealing. Despite a fresh seven-year sentence, he contrived to escape in March 1990 with the assistance of mysterious accomplices. He returned to Turkey, and was then recruited by the police for “special missions”. This at a time when he was officially being sought by the Turkish authorities for murder and faced a possible death penalty (5).
Çatli, hailed by Mrs Çiller as a “great patriot”, was a terrible man with a dreadful record of atrocities to his name. For example, he went and demanded money from people who were on “Çiller’s list”, promising to get their names removed. Having pocketed the money, he then went on to have them kidnapped and killed, and sometimes tortured beforehand. One of his victims, Behçet Canturk, was to pay ten million dollars, to which Casino King Omer Luftu Topal added a further seventeen million. This double ransom did not stop Canturk from being kidnapped on 28 July 1996 by police officers under the orders of Çatli. The officers were recognised by a witness and reported to the Istanbul police on 25 August 1996. They were arrested and briefly held in Istanbul on 27 August, then promptly transferred by night to Ankara on the personal orders of the minister of interior. In order to cover for them, the minister placed them under the close protection of deputy Bucak – a key figure in Tansu Çiller’s “special organisation”. The witness who rashly reported the proceedings was eliminated on 28 August…
The costs of the “special war” have been high. In 1993 a sum of $70m was allocated from the prime minister’s secret funds. According to Mr Savas, this sum was used mainly for buying weapons and anti-terrorist equipment from Israel and for external operations. On the home front, racketeering and secret funding made it possible to maintain an array of hired killers and informers. However, the expense of maintaining private armies such as that of Mr Bucak (20,000 men) and the 64,000 “village guards” (pro-government Kurdish militias) made it necessary to acquire more funding from somewhere. Thus Turkey’s state-owned banks have been mobilised to provide generous credit facilities for government supporters in the regions. However, the main source of funding has been the trafficking of heroin on a massive scale.
Since the 1950s, Turkey has played a key role in channelling into Europe and the United States the heroin produced in the “Golden Triangle” comprised by Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. The operation is run by mafia groups closely controlled by the MIT. One of their personnel described their relations with the police in the following terms: “Our people are able to pass through Yesilköy (Istanbul) airport whenever they wish, without being controlled by customs, with briefcases containing 3-5 million marks. Sometimes they stamp their passports, sometimes they don’t. Our boss has all kinds of false passports, stamps etc. (6).”
Inci Baba, a known Turkish “godfather”, claimed on television and in the columns of the Turkish Daily News on 7 December 1993, to have been a close friend of President Süleyman Demirel and to have “protected and helped” him during his years in the wilderness. He even accompanied him on an official visit to Washington.
After the Gulf War in 1991, Turkey found itself deprived of the all-important Iraqi market and, since it lacked significant oil reserves of its own, it decided to make up for the loss by turning more massively to drugs. The trafficking increased in intensity with the arrival of the “hawks” in power, after the death in suspicious circumstances of President Turgut Özal in April 1993. According to the minister of interior, the war in Kurdistan had cost the Turkish exchequer upwards of $12.5 billion (7). Whereas, according to the daily Hürriyet, Turkey’s heroin trafficking brought in $25 billion in 1995 and $37.5 billion in 1996 (8).
Only criminal networks working in close cooperation with the police and the army could possibly organise trafficking on such a scale. Drug barons such as Huseyin Baybasin have stated publicly, on Turkish television and in the West, that they have been working under the protection of the Turkish government and to its financial benefit (9). The traffickers themselves travel on diplomatic passports. According to witnesses at the Parliamentary Commission inquiring into the Susurluk accident, the drugs are even transported by military helicopter from the Iranian border. The president of the commission himself, deputy Mehmet Erkatmis, has protested against the fact that these damning allegations have been censured out of the commission’s official report…
In an explosive document made public by the editor of the weekly Aydinlik at a press conference in Istanbul on 21 September 1996, the MIT itself accuses its rival organisation, Turkey’s national police, of having “provided police identity cards and diplomatic passports to members of a group which, in the guise of anti-terrorist activities, travelled to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary and Azerbaijan to engage in drug trafficking”. It provided a list of names of some of the traffickers operating under the protection of the police (10). The police, for their part, via police chief Hanefi Avci, returned the compliment and handed over a list of named drug traffickers employed by the MIT. According to the official report drawn up by Kutlu Savas, the intra-police war for control of this lucrative trade has thus far cost the lives of fifteen MIT officers.
Western Europe is the principal target of this massive trafficking operation. However, most European governments prefer to maintain an embarrassed silence on Ankara’s dealings, in the same way that they have refrained from open criticism of the destruction of 3,428 Kurdish villages and the displacement of more than three million Kurds by their Turkish allies (11). However, on 22 January 1997 a German judge, Ralf Schwalbe, launched public accusations against the Turkish government in general and Tansu Çiller in particular. These were taken up on by Tom Sackville, minister of state at the British Home Office, who stated in the Sunday Times on 26 January 1997 that 80% of the heroin seized in Britain came from Turkey, and that his government was concerned at reports that members of the Turkish police, and even of the Turkish government, were involved in drug trafficking.
Prompted by these disclosures, on 17 June 1997 the head of the OECD’s “Financial Task Force”, Fernando Carpentieri, issued a solemn warning that Turkey was “the only member of the OECD not applying the measures decided by the OECD to prevent money laundering… The situation cannot be allowed to continue for much longer. We are giving the Turkish authorities until September to pass the necessary legislation. Otherwise the country could face a potentially destructive reaction from the world banking community.”
Even Washington, Turkey’s faithful ally, has begun to break its silence. The highly official International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) of the US State Department, published in February 1998, revealed that “about 75% of the heroin seized in Europe is either produced in, or derives from, Turkey”, that “4 to 6 tons of heroin arrive from there every month, heading for Western Europe” and that “a number of laboratories for the purification of the opium used in transforming the basic morphine into heroin are located on Turkish soil”. The report stresses that Turkey is one of the countries most affected by money-laundering, which takes place particularly via the countries of the ex-Soviet Union, through the medium of casinos, the construction industry and tourism.
* President of the Institut kurde in Paris
(1) “In the region under State of Emergency [the Kurdish provinces], the authority to apply the death sentence has been brought down to the level of low-ranking officers and, even more seriously, to repentant prisoners, who were the terrorists of yesterday and are the potential criminals of tomorrow … When persons have been handed over from one state service to another, after a case has been has been adjourned in the courts, and are found dead under a bridge, it is obvious that one cannot speak of murders by unknown perpetrators.” So writes Government Inspector Savas in his report, the expurgated text of which was published as a supplement by the Turkish daily Radikal on 4 February 1998.
(2) See “Les liaisons dangereuses de la police turque”, Le Monde diplomatique, March 1997, available in English as “The dubious connections of the Turkish police”.
(3) According to the Turkish daily Hürriyet, 6 June 1998, 43 police officers accused of involvement in these operations have been promoted.
(4) Gladio is an anti-communist resistance network set up by NATO in Western Europe after the second world war. It has been operating for 40 years.
(5) In October 1997 two Turkish journalists, Soner Yalçin and Dogan Yurdakul, published a well-documented report on Abdullah Çatli, entitled Ries, Gladio’nun Türk Tetikçisis (“The Rais: Gladio’s Turkish Killer”), Oteki Yayinlari, Istanbul.
(6) Soner Yalçin and Dogan Yurdakul, op. cit.
(7) Cited in the Turkish Daily News, 29 January 1995.
(8) Hürriyet, on 26 December 1996 and 5 June 1997 respectively.
(9) Some of these statements were printed in the dailies Hürriyet, 27 December 1996, and Ozgur Politika, 2 January 1997.
(10) MIT Raporu, published in detail in the weekly Aydinlik, 21 September 1996 and extracted in other Turkish newspapers the following day.
(11) Official figure provided by the Migration Commission of the Turkish parliament and quoted in Turkish Probe, 7 June 1998.