Author Topic: Turkey: Wiretaps and the politics of Fear (wikileaks cable)  (Read 1212 times)

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Wondering why Turkish people are protesting?

This 2009 WikiLeaks cable and it tells enough about the situation:



C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001642
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2019
Classified By: Ambassador James Jeffrey, for reasons 1.4 (b,d)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY:  Public concern over the use of wiretaps by
the government as evidence to detain suspects in the
Ergenekon trial is waxing again, as members of Parliament and
even former President Suleyman Demirel register their
concerns in the press.  Although wiretapping is not new to
Turkish society, the use of wiretaps against bastions of the
state on a wide range IS new and shocking, giving those with
best access to the press cause to air their concerns --
unheeded by the government -- to the public.  People who
previously felt themselves to be immune from such
investigative methods complain to us that they no longer talk
freely on the phone, even casually, for fear that they may be
pulled into the ever-expanding scope of the Ergenekon probe.
Moreover, this and other developments such as the tax evasion
case against the Dogan Group, increasingly appear to many
here as an assault on the pluralistic checks and balances
that strengthen Turkey's democracy.  END SUMMARY.
¶2. (U) Allegations that the Interior Ministry is misusing its
power to tap the communications of Turkish citizens has
reached a fever pitch, with former President Demirel
declaring in a recent speech before the Antalya Chamber of
Commerce and Industry that Turkey has become an "empire of
fear."  Claiming that the atmosphere of fear in Turkey is
worse even than the time of military rule (with which Demirel
is familiar, having been sent to prison following the 1980
coup), he decries a society in which citizens have to worry
if their conversations are being tapped, and, as a result,
free speech and thought have ceased to exist.  Hurriyet
newspaper reported on November 16 that CHP MP Tacidar Seyhan,
who used to sit on Parliament's committee investigating
illegal wiretapping, alleges that the telephones of 300
members (more than half) of Parliament, 3,000 judges, and 613
journalists currently are being tapped.  Among those believed
to be under technical surveillance are some of the judges
hearing the Ergenekon trial, prosecutors who have opened
cases against members of the ruling Justice and Development
Party (AKP), and members of the Court of Appeals.
¶3. (U) Fear that one's phone is being tapped is now prevalent
in Turkish society, particularly among academics, lawyers,
journalists, and bureaucrats.  Many are concerned that their
routine activities may have brought their names and phone
numbers into tangential contact with someone either currently
or potentially tied to the Ergenekon investigation, meriting
eavesdropping on their conversations.  Because the Ergenekon
investigation is being conducted under Turkey's
counterterrorism laws, the investigating authorities have
great leeway to detain suspects without formal charge.  As
increasing numbers of politicians, bureaucrats, and military
officials -- most, but not all, well-known to be staunch
secularists and proud Kemalists -- have been arrested, their
friends and coworkers are beginning to fear they will be next.
¶4. (C) COMMENT: Turkey's secular elite feels under siege.
Their fear of detention -- enhanced by the occasionally
humiliating procedures, such as daybreak arrests and
protracted interrogations -- has an impact on what people are
willing to talk about, thereby stifling debate about
government policies, the pursuit of freedoms, and the
Ergenekon case itself.  In a country where the rule of law
and the impartiality of the legal system are not firmly
embedded, the fear of abuse of power is a real one, not to be
minimized or dismissed lightly.  Moreover, it is sobering to
see the speed with which the Ergenekon trial has spread from
investigating suspects hiding caches of illegal arms to
investigating those whose anti-AKP phone conversations appear
to have branded them as coup conspirators.  Although
wiretapping is not a new phenomenon in Turkey, the secularist
elite believes itself -- and perhaps its system of values --
to be the ultimate target.
¶5. (C) COMMENT (cont.): Still, the secular angst should be
taken with a grain of salt.  First, so far we have not seen
conclusive evidence that the government in any of this --
Dogan, wiretapping, Ergenekon, etc. -- is going beyond the
letter of the law.  But as noted above, the state's culture
and the broad definition of "legal" here do raise concerns.
ANKARA 00001642  002 OF 002
Secondly, Demirel's definition of the current political
atmosphere as an "empire of fear" seems excessive,
particularly when one looks beyond the traditional elites to
the full breadth of society.  Demirel had the ear of a
friendly audience in Antalya (part of the traditional
political heartland of the Democrat Party he used to head).
His speech also seems to have drawn its main points from the
same source that informed Husamettin Cindoruk's remarks at
the Democrat Party Congress (REFTEL), another gathering deep
in Ergenekon skeptics.  The situation for traditional elites
like Demirel is, indeed, uncomfortable and scary.  But it is
not -- yet -- on the scale of the repression of the 1980s.
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Read the full cable here: