Row May Hurt Turkish Intel's Credibility, Parliamentary Speaker Says
The crisis between the judiciary and the intelligence service could have harmed the credibility of the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, Turkey's parliamentary speaker said, urging all state institutions to stop assessing each other as "rivals" or "enemies."
"If you destroyed [MİT's] reputation, you would also besmirch its credibility with regard to its relations with other countries. This would cause so many negative results and create difficulties. One should pay attention to it," Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Thursday.
Veteran politician Çiçek is the first senior official to speak out about the after-effects of the crisis among the country's top institutions after a specially authorized prosecutor sought to launch a probe against MİT chief Hakan Fidan over the intelligence service's role in the fight against terror. The government strengthened the immunity of MİT personnel through a swift amendment to the MİT Act, seemingly ending the crisis.
"Turkey is accustomed to crises. That's why all institutions should be more sensitive and careful in using their authority," Çiçek said, noting that the legislative, executive and judicial branches treat each other as either rivals or even enemies. "They are not rivals. They should work in harmony."
Describing these kinds of internal squabbles as "incidents that have no logical explanation" and noting that they appear quite frequently, especially between the executive and the judiciary, Çiçek said:
"We all have to draw lessons from these incidents. The institutions should not evaluate developments only from its point of view, they should look beyond [this]."
Although he did not comment on the prosecutor's accusations against MİT, Çiçek said the intelligence service was one of the most prominent state bodies for Turkey's security and noted that it had both internal and external contacts.
"If you depict this institution as a criminal organization, if you tarnish its reputation [there will be problems]. Similar problems are solved in other countries within the borders of the law," he said. "At the end of the day, what you call a state consists of relations between these institutions. I call on these institutions to be more sensitive and careful while using their authority not only for the good sake of the reputation of these institutions but also for society."
Controversy Erupts on Bill for Education
A new education reform bill is ill-conceived and would effectively make primary education two-tiered while also negatively affecting girls' schooling, Turkey's leading businesswoman said Thursday while urging lawmakers to instead focus on increasing the quality of education.
"The main goal should be to attain a well-educated, pluralist and libertarian society along with the process of democratization. It is questionable how the draft law presented to Parliament is going to serve these goals," Turkish Industry & Business Association, or TÜSİAD, leader Ümit Boyner said.
Offering the reminder that the bill was prepared without outside help, Boyner said the separation of primary education into two tiers, combined with efforts to associate the second tier with "open learning," could cause problems in girls' schooling rates.
"This arrangement is also in contradiction with the policies of other countries of the European Union with regard to delaying vocational choices. The drawbacks of an arrangement that is going to push the age of apprenticeship down to 11 must also be taken into consideration," she said.
The amount of vocational and technical training in middle school education has greatly increased in recent years, and the need to focus on the quality of education first has thus become apparent, Boyner added.
Parliament's Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Commission has begun discussing the draft proposal presented by the group of deputy leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. The draft proposes increasing the length of mandatory education in Turkey to 12 years while ending uninterrupted education by dividing it into three tiers, consisting of four years each.
"Can you provide just one negative example in relation to 15 years of the administration of eight years' uninterrupted education?" said Engin Altay, a deputy from the main opposition People's Republican Party, or CHP, from the Black Sea province of Sinop. There is not a single educator among the signatories of the proposal, he added.
Zuhal Topçu, an Ankara deputy from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, said the party had failed to understand the aims and goals of the proposal and had requested its withdrawal.
Deputy AKP leader Nurettin Canikli, however, said the main points in the proposal are related to increasing mandatory education to 12 years of formal open learning, abolishing the differences in coefficients used in university exams and putting education into tiers. The proposal is expected to increase the rate of schooling, particularly with respect to girls, he said.
No Organization Behind Dink Murder, Court Ruling Says
An Istanbul court has issued its detailed ruling in the case of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin murdered in 2007, arguing there was no evidence indicating the existence of an organization behind the crime, despite lingering doubts.
"If a [terrorist] organization does exist [behind the crime], then it has not been ascertained when and for which purpose it was established. It has not been ascertained on which principles and crimes the organization's founders established their mutual wills. If there is a structure that presents continuity, then no information could be obtained as to what kinds of actions they have undertaken since Jan. 19, 2007," read the court's ruling made public Thursday.
The 216 page ruling also said no organization leaders or members could be identified, and that no evidence could be found to demonstrate the organization was in possession of the necessary means to commit the crimes in question either.
"There is only the fact that a murder leading to so many political consequences was committed by the suspects without an organization [standing behind them], and that this constitutes a situation that runs counter to the natural flow of life," the ruling said.
While this situation establishes doubt, criminal law holds that doubt should be interpreted in the suspect's favor, the verdict went on.
"It was thus necessary to acquit the suspects due to lack of evidence, as the suspects' crimes of establishing, leading, abetting and being members of an [illegal] organization could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt with clear and precise facts and evidence that leaves no room for hesitation," according to the ruling.
It seems illogical that the murder was planned and premeditated by juveniles without an organization behind them, but those who planned the murder left no evidence that would establish either a de jure or a de facto connection between the triggermen and themselves, the ruling continued.
Dink was the chief editor for the weekly Agos, a newspaper published in Turkish and Armenian. He was shot dead in front of his office on Jan. 19, 2007 in Istanbul. Triggerman Ogün Samast was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the murder last year.
Instigator Yasin Hayal was sentenced on Jan. 19 to aggravated life imprisonment, while former police informant and suspect Erhan Tuncel was released, leading to a public outcry.
Turkish Petroleum Corporation to Begin Land Drilling in TRNC
Turkey's state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO, will begin land drilling for oil and natural gas in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or TRNC, in accordance with an agreement signed by Turkey and TRNC.
A 3,000-meter well will be dug in Sinirustu village of Iskele. The well is named "Turkyurdu-1." Preparations for a ceremony that will mark the start of first land drilling in TRNC are about to be completed. The ceremony is expected to be held at the end of this month.
On Sept. 21, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Dervis Eroglu of TRNC signed in New York an agreement on the delineation of the continental shelf between the two countries in the East Mediterranean.
Under the agreement, TPAO will be able to make three dimensional seismic research and drilling in TRNC land and sea more actively. The agreement follows a Greek Cypriot move to start offshore drilling for natural gas and oil in the southeast of the Eastern Mediterranean island.
On September 22, TRNC Council of Ministers gave exploration license to TPAO, Turkish Petroleum Corp., to explore oil and natural gas around Cyprus island. TRNC President Eroglu met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York on September 24, and proposed to suspend oil and natural gas exploration until a comprehensive solution was found to Cyprus question, or if Greek Cypriot administration insisted on oil exploration. Then, a committee shall be set up by the two sides in the island, and it shall decide how to share the richness that could be found after the explorations.
The Greek Cypriot side did not give a positive response. Thus, TPAO, by Piri Reis vessel, began geophysical research and seismic data collecting studies on behalf of TRNC on September 26. In 2010, the Greek Cypriot administration and Israel signed an accord demarcating their maritime borders to facilitate a search for mineral deposits in the East Mediterranean.
The Greek Cypriot side had signed a deal with U.S.-based Noble Energy to start drilling in an 324,000-hectare economic zone adjacent to the Israeli waters.
Bagis Tells EU to End 'Nonsense' on Visa Requirements
Turkish European Union Minister Egemen Bağış sent a clear message to the union Friday, telling them to "end the nonsense" on visa requirements for Turkey, private broadcaster NTV reported on its Web site.
Bağış spoke at the Turkey-EU Parliamentary Commission meeting in Istanbul, saying it was unacceptable for Turkish people to be put through visa regulations when European Union nationals do not need visas to visit member states.
"Turkey's position in the world today clearly does not deserve these visa applications," Bağış said. "I ask you to send strong messages to the European Parliament to end this."
Turkey, Western Countries Prepare for Military Intervention in Syria
Despite public denials, military preparations for intervention in the horrendous Syrian crisis are quietly afoot in Washington, Paris, Rome, London and Ankara. President Barack Obama is poised for a final decision after the Pentagon submits operational plans for protecting Syrian rebels and beleaguered populations from the brutal assaults of President Bashar al-Assad's army, debkafile's Washington sources disclose.
This process is also underway in allied capitals which joined the United States in the Libyan operation that ended Muammar Qaddafi's rule in August, 2011. They are waiting for a White House decision before going forward.
In Libya, foreign intervention began as an operation to protect the Libyan population against its ruler's outrageous crackdown on dissent; it was mandated by the United Nations Security Council. There is no chance of this in the Syrian case because it will be blocked by a Russian veto. Therefore, Western countries are planning military action of limited scope outside the purview of the world body, possibly on behalf of "Friends of Syria," a group of 80 world nations which mets for the first time in Tunis on Friday to hammer out practical steps for terminating the bloodbath pursued by the Assad regime.
The foreign ministers and senior officials – Russia has excluded itself – will certainly be further galvanized into action by the tragic deaths of two notable journalists Wednesday, on the 19th day of the shelling of Homs.
Preparations for the event are taking place at the Foreign Office in London. On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: Governments around the world have the responsibility to act…and to redouble our efforts to stop the Assad regime's despicable campaign of terror."
Hague pointedly said nothing about removing the Syrian ruler. Nor did he spell out the necessary efforts to take in order to stop the campaign of terror. Debkafile's military sources note that he left these issues open because a decision by Obama, about if and how the U.S. will act, is pending until the Pentagon submits operational plans to Commander-in-Chief Obama.
The U.S. president is also waiting for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's report on the mood at the Tunis conference. He wants to know in particular if Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the UAR will support U.S.-led Western intervention in Syria, both politically and financially.
The Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and the French Figaro video-photographer Remi Ochik died Wednesday in the heavy shelling of a fortified building which housed Western journalists making their way into Homs under the protection of Syrian rebels. Three other Western journalists were injured.
Western military sources reported Thursday that this undercover Western press center was maintained by the rebels in tight secrecy. The building was practically gutted by a direct hit, suggesting that Syrian forces located it with the help of advanced electronic measures.
Another Western source noted that the journalists covering the atrocities in Homs from this hideout used coded channels of communications protected by anti-jamming and anti-tracking devices. The Syrians, therefore, must have called on Russian satellites or advanced Iranian electronic systems to locate it.
The authorities in Damascus decided to treat the press hideout as the first step in overt Western intervention in the Syrian conflict. It was accordingly razed totally with its occupants.
U.S. Appeals Court Tosses Armenian Reparation Law
A federal appeals court Thursday struck down a controversial California law that allowed descendants of Armenians who perished in Turkey nearly a century ago to file claims against life insurance companies accused of reneging on policies.
The move came when a specially convened 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously tossed out a class action lawsuit filed against Munich Re after two of its subsidiaries refused to pay claims. The ruling, written by Judge Susan Graber, said the California law trampled on U.S. foreign policy the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government.
The California Legislature labeled the Armenian deaths as "genocide," a term the Turkish government vehemently argued was wrongly applied during a time of civil unrest in the country. The court noted the issue is so fraught with politics that President Barack Obama studiously avoided using the word "genocide" during a commemorative speech in April 2010 noting the Armenian deaths.
The tortured legal saga began in 2000 when the California Legislature passed a law enabling Armenian heirs to file claims with insurance companies for policies sold around the turn of the 20th century. It gave the heirs until 2010 to file lawsuits over unpaid insurance benefits.
New York Life and the French company AXA paid a combined $37.5 million to settle lawsuits. But Munich Re chose to fight the litigation, invoking a rare legal argument known as dormant foreign affairs pre-emption. The insurance giant argued the state Legislature had no business weighing in on the issue, even though the United States had no clear policy regarding the politically sensitive matter.
It was the third time the 9th Circuit ruled on the case. The ruling Thursday could be the final word on the matter unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review the unanimous decision by the 11 appellate judges.
Merkel Asks Racism Victims for Forgiveness
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has asked for "forgiveness" from the families of 10 people, eight of them Turks, believed to have been killed in a seven-year murder spree by a neo-Nazi gang, as Germany marked a national day of commemoration.
Merkel described the murder spree as an attack on Germany and a "disgrace," at a tribute to the victims held in Berlin's central concert hall Thursday. The existence of a neo-Nazi cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground, or NSU, was discovered last year. The group is thought to be behind the killings of eight men of Turkish origin, one Greek national and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
"Some relatives were themselves wrongly under suspicion [over the murders] for years. That is particularly tormenting. For that I ask you for forgiveness," Merkel, dressed in black, told around 1,200 guests.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül thanked new German presidential candidate Joachim Gauck in a phone call, saying his participation in the memorial was a nice gesture. Gül also wished Gauck luck in the coming election. The memorial began with students carrying 12 candles to the front of the hall to music by Johann Sebastian Bach. The candles were for each of those killed, plus one for other victims of extremist violence and one for hope for the future.
"My son died in my arms, in 2006, in the Internet cafe where he was shot," İsmail Yozgat said of his 21-year-old son, Halit. Addressing the gathering in Turkish, he asked that the street in Kassel where his son was born and murdered be named after him.
Semiya Şimşek, whose father, Enver Şimşek, was shot at his flower stand in Nuremberg at the age of 38, said for years her family could not consider themselves victims because of suspicions that her father may have had criminal connections.
"Can you imagine how it felt to see my mother become a focus of investigation?" she said in a speech that left dignitaries visibly moved. "Today I torture myself with the question 'Am I at home in Germany?' ... How can I be sure of this when there are people who don't want me here because my parents are from another country?"
A minute's silence took place at noon as part of a national day of commemoration for the victims. Germany was left reeling by the November 2011 discovery of the NSU, which only came to light when two members were found dead in an apparent suicide pact.