"Six weeks after a gunman killed one of Turkey's highest-ranking judges and wounded four others, the case has descended into the murk that invariably envelops politically potent cases in this country.meanwhile:
Key facts in the case remain elusive. So does the background of the confessed assailant. Alparslan Arslan appears to have close links to the Islamic militants deemed a threat to Turkey's secular establishment -- but also to shadowy ultranationalist groups with a history of using violence in the name of defending the state.
The following day, thousands of citizens surged onto capital streets vowing to defend the secular nature of the Turkish republic. The chief of Turkey's military urged more demonstrations.
But in the following days the picture of Arslan fogged over. In his car was a press card issued by an ultranationalist press agency, according to Turkish news accounts. As a lawyer, he had represented the former head of another ultranationalist group.
Rumors surfaced that Arslan was in frequent phone contact in the hours before the shooting with a shadowy former military officer who was taken into custody in an Istanbul hospital, where he was being treated for a knife wound in the chest, possibly self-inflicted. The man was later freed.
But things are not always what they seem in Turkey, as a hearing Tuesday in a different case demonstrated.
Tuesday's proceeding arose from the events of November 1996, when a Mercedes crashed in the town of Susurluk. The passengers turned out to be a senior police official, a feudal lord, a former beauty queen and one of Turkey's most notorious gangsters, who was found to have a half-dozen diplomatic passports and a trunk full of pistols and silencers. The crash confirmed suspicions that elements within the Turkish state consort with criminals in the name of protecting the state.
"The debate in our country is about who has sovereignty," said Fikri Saglar, who served on the parliamentary commission that investigated the Susurluk crash. "The parliament says sovereignty is with the people, that in a democratic system people vote for their rulers.
"The military-bureaucratic state believes that sovereignty belongs to them, and the people in their ignorance make wrong choices that endanger the state."The tension has played out publicly since 2002, when Turks elected a new government whose proudly Muslim identity is regarded as a threat by Turkey's secular establishment.
At the same time, questions about Arslan's background suggested the hand of the "deep state," the term commonly used in Turkey to describe forces assumed to be at play when the facts around political violence recede into shadow.
"A treacherous gang has emerged from behind the bloody plot," Erdogan told a party caucus. "This attack targeted our country's ever-increasing democratic progress."
Saglar said the shootings may well have been engineered to provoke a public reaction against Erdogan's government. No avowedly secular party has risen to challenge its two-thirds majority in parliament, leaving open the way for Erdogan's ascension to Turkey's presidency, an office of particular significance to secularists.
"For me it is clear that behind this attack is what we call the deep state," Saglar said. "I believe the aim is to create a major reaction in the society by an attack on one of the major institutions in the state and to turn the society against the current government."
" Allies of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have accused Turkey of moving toward Islamic fundamentalism.
Analysts at a Washington, D.C. think tank said the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan plans to overthrow Turkey's secular regime. They said Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was pursuing a secret agenda for an Islamic takeover."The objective for Erdogan and the AKP is to destroy the secular republic and replace it with an Islamist order," said Alex Alexiev, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy.
The center has been regarded as close to the Defense Department, particularly Rumsfeld. Several members of the center are former Pentagon officials angered by Turkey's refusal to help the United States establish a northern military front against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
In a conference at the Hudson Institute on June 23, Alexiev said the Erdogan government has sought to weaken the military, regarded as the last secular bastion in Turkey. He said Erdogan was using the European Union accession process as a means to eliminate military opposition to fundamentalism.
"Turkey's military is a special type of institution, and not an average military in Western democracies," Alexiev said. "Because of the country's history and traditions, the military sees itself as the guarantor of secular order. So they are seen as the main obstacle to an Islamist takeover."
Frank Gaffney, director of the center, said Erdogan's government has moved Turkey's foreign policy away from the West and toward the Middle East. Gaffney said Turkey was becoming a totalitarian state.
"Many in Europe and some in the United States believe that political Islam is exhibiting its most benign characteristics in Turkey and that it should be supported," Gaffney said. "But evidence shows the Erdogan movement is not benign but creeping Islamofascism."
I get nervous whenever gaffney and his friends spout "Islamofascism." Why are our favourite democracy-givers standing up for the Turkish military?