Due to the “Balyoz” there is notable shortage of experienced officers.
By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara
“From now on in the Turkish military navy they will recruit captains for the fleet only from “catamaran”. They didn’t leave even one experienced officer”. These comments do not belong to a random Turkish citizen, but to the ex Vice-General Mehmet Balan, who is imprisoned as an elected member of the parliament for the Nationalist Action party (MHP), with the accusation of taking part to the conspiracy ploy with the code name “Balyoz”.
In the neighboring country there are many who argue that the Turkish Navy shows signs of disarray. Last month’s confirmation from the Supreme Court regarding the decisions of the trial for “Bayloz” permanently removed 7 admirals from the Turkish Navy, while 57% of the suspects who were arrested for this conspiracy are constituted by members of the Turkish Navy! Two hundred and thirty seven officers of the Turkish armed forces have been accused and convicted for their part in the conspiracy. From those, 7 were admirals, 27 ex admirals while in total 100 active Navy officers were accused of and convicted by the court.
Dozens of others Navy officers are accused as “agents” because they were the victims of a secret group that was stealing information from the Navy.
In September 2012 the second in command of the Turkish Military Navy vice-admiral Atilla Kezek had resigned from active duty in order to support the imprisoned officers. In his resignation letter he mentions that everybody stands by our convicted colleagues.
There is information that 5-6 more admirals have resigned, but their names have not been announced yet.
Serious shortages in leadership
There is a huge problem for the leadership of the Navy since in January 2013 the First in command of the Turkish fleet Nusret Guner had submitted his resignation. Guner had already submitted his resignation since November 2012 in an act of protest for the dozens of arrests of Navy officers with the accusation of being members of Ergenekon or agents. In his letter of resignation he had written that: “our friends are being arrested and there is nothing we can do about it and if that is not enough we assist in their arrests. The Second in command of the Military Navy Veysel Kosele had been discharged since he is accused by the Turkish court for having an active role in a secret agents organization!
Twelve active admirals of the Turkish Navy have been arrested and are on trial for various charges.
The ex vice-general Engin Alan argues that: “they have arrested and have ended the careers of the 20 most experienced officers of the Navy (When one takes into account all the trials). They have essentially severed the most successful future officers. These trials constitute such a blatant conspiracy that they have reached the point where they accuse Turkish officers as being members of a prostitution organization, as terrorists, and as instigators of a military coup. With “Bayloz” they have “drowned” 300 “children” who love this country”.
The problem is not only in the hierarchy, but in the Navy’s function as well since all the programs for the modernization of the Navy and Air force have “frozen”. According to the Turkish press no other document apart from the resignations of officers is being signed. There are reports that even the plan for the shipbuilding of the national battleship of the neighboring country, the Turkish corvette MILGEM is being delayed due to the reluctance of many officers to take on the required responsibilities. Most of the officers that were arrested were responsible for various arming programs as well as for programs for the modernization of the military systems.
Haluk Pesken, who is a layer for many of the imprisoned officers points out that most of them were targeted on purpose. Pesken claims that: “out of fear no officer will sign any document apart from the resignations” and points out that many plans of the Navy and the Air Force have been put on ice for this very reason”.
There is a problem in the command of the Navy forces. While the top positions should have been reserved for vice-admirals, due to the arrests and the lack of staff, they have been covered by vice-captains. That is the reason why even Erdogan who fought against the “pashas” has been forced to state that: “there is no leader left to take command of the Fleet”, in an attempt to send a message to the district attorneys and judges to stop the prosecutions against them.
The objective is to incapacitate the Navy
Admiral Cem Gurdeniz who had been convicted in the trial of “Balyoz” states that: “the state in which the Turkish Navy has been brought to resembles the state of the French Navy immediately after the French Revolution. With mock trials, with fake evidence, they eradicate the most capable members of the Turkish Navy. These are people who have studied abroad, captains, men of the special forces. I believe that the ultimate goal of this operation is the weakening of the Turkish Navy in order for Turkey to be prevent by some, from becoming a regional power”.
Many of the officers who are locked in prison accuse the Chief of the Armed Forces Necdet Ozel for indifference. They point out that he should have taken a more active role against Erdogan for the “fake accusations of which they are accused and imprisoned”. The ex-Commander of the Fleet Nusret Guner, emphatically states: “who will support me? my people, namely the Staff. Because it knows of my innocence. Why did I resign? That is why I resigned. If I do not stand by my personnel who will? No one should hide behind justice; some day they will pay for the things they did. If they don’t, they will answer to God”.
The Turkish Chief of Staff though seems to be unconcerned about the accusations and states that he is trying not to politicize the Turkish Fleet. Ozel says that: “I will not resign just because some people want me to. I have taken up my duties during a difficult era and I am only interested in the trust of the people. The Chief of Staff is the Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces and a public official, who has responsibility to the State and who duties and responsibilities are determined by laws. I believe that the public official should be a good judge of when and where to speak as well as what to say. For this reason I opt not to talk much and to keep a low profile”.
That said, there is a big question mark concerning the future readiness of the Turkish Navy, as ex-officers report, due to the absence of many of its staff, while it continues to construct new corvetes, submarines and frigates with the endorsement of the Erdogan government.
The “Operation Bayloz” dates back to 2003 and according to the indictment it involved plans for the placement of bombs in historic mosques, the provocation of tension in the relationship with Greece and the destabilization of the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Party of “Justice and Growth”, in order for the military to intervene.
The ploy was initially revealed in 2010 with documents that were published in the Turkish newspaper Taraf. In the documents it was revealed that many officers of the Turkish military had come up with a conspiracy ploy against the Erdogan government, which aimed in its immediate violent overthrow in a violent way. The documents, most of which were confiscated after the raid of police officers in the naval base of Giolguz. Part of the plan was also the placement of explosives in a mosque, the shooting down of an aircraft of the Turkish Air force with the claim that was in fact taken out by Greece all aiming in the creation of a tension between Greece and Turkey. The Turkish generals according to the verdict had devised a plan to invade and occupy the territory of Northen Evros. The final stage of this plot foretold that due to the huge unrest caused by these events, Tayyip Erdogan and his government that had come into power in 2002 would have been overthrown.
Retired general Hilmi Ozkioz, former Chief of staff of National Defense of Turkey, in his statement in court as a witness, had stated that “the plan had gone too far”, since the actual names of political figures were mentioned. “When the Erdogan government came into power there was fear due to their former actions; I was afraid as well. There are times when us, the generals, exchange opinions. In one such meeting, the idea of a “military coup” was mentioned. But this was mentioned as one of the possible courses of action”. That was the former general’s statement.
Ozkioz was in charge of the Turkish military forces during the period from 2002 to 2006.
The three main culprits of the “Operation Bayloz”, the former Commander of the A’ army corps Cetin Dogan, the former Commander of the Turkish Air force Ibrahim Firtina, and the former Commander of the Turkish Navy Ozden Ornek were sentenced to twice life imprisonment. Later, it was announced that the penalty for the three “masterminds” of the plan was reduced to twenty years in prison, due to the fact that the plan had not actually taken effect.
Other generals such as Engin Alan, Erhun Saygun, and the former head of War School Bilgin Balanli were sentenced to 18 years imprisonment with the charge of “taking part to a failed attempt for a military coup”.