Ergenekon is the name of a mountain where, according to Turkish legend, Turkic tribes escaped from aggressing Mongols.
It is also, ccording to the Turkish government, the name of an armed group that has been planning the overthrow of the Turkish government for nearly a generation. Ergenekon has been in the Turkish news a great deal since 2007, when the government began investigations into the group.
There is wide disagreement in Turkey about the intentions of the group, and those of the current government in bringing chargest against it.
According to Ergenekon's accusers, the group was founded in its current form in 1999 as a clandestine organization. However, there are other claims that the group's first manifestations can be found as early as 1956.
Members of the group are understood to come from within powerful areas in the state and military apparatus, or to be tied to such power. No one knows how many or who, exactly, belongs to the group, which is nearly always characterized as "shadowy." This shadowy group is associated with the premise that Turkey has a "deep state" -a state within a state made up of a network of individuals linked to Turkish organized crime, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and potentially others.
Many commentators believe that Ergenekon'sgoal is to preserve the state envisioned by Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk. In 1922, following a war that overturned the Ottoman government, which was also the center of the Islamic caliphate, Ataturk authored a secular, nationalist state with Turkish identity at its core. Nevertheless, many minorities, including Armenians, Kurds and Jews were citizens of the state.
Those who continue to support this vision of the state, which is both secular and exclusionary, are called Kemalists, or ultra nationalists, or neo-nationalists.
It is widely believed that Ergenekon's recent alleged plots to create conditions for a military coup are a response to the current governing party, the Justice and Development party (called AKP, the acronym for the party name in Turkish, Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi).
AKP is a moderate Islamist, pro-free market, pro-Europe party. Its religious cast is unnerving to a country that has been secular since its founding; secular elites deeply fear that extended rule by the AKP will lead to a more orthodox Islamic state. At the same time, AKP's progressive attitude toward toward Europe and the United States has unsettling implications for those who believe Turkey must be strong and 'pure' in order to maintain its Turkish identity. As scholars Michael M. Gunter and M. Hakan Yavuz have pointed out, "democracy" is not one of the founding principles of the Turkish republic.
Ergenekon members are not directly linked with any attack. Many are suspicious that assassinations of secular journalists and intellectuals in the early 1990s were sponsored by Ergenekon, rather than violent Islamist extremists, as was previously believed. Ergenekon's goals in such a case would be to foment fear.
Assassinations in the 1990s have similarly mysterious sources. Ugur Mumcu, a journalist, was assassinated in 1993 while investigating a potential relationship between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Worker's Party (which it calls a terrorist group). At the time, his assassination was pinned on a group affiliated with Iran. Evidence revealed during investigations of Ergenekon, however, suggested that Ergenekon's military wing was behind the assassination. Not all obervers are persuaded, however. Mumcu's brother , Ceyhan, has made the case for Israeli and CIA involvement.
Investigation and Trial of Ergenekon Members:
Investigations into the group began in July 2007, when policy discovered an arms cache in a house in Istanbul. On July 14, 2008, the government charged 86 prominent members of society with various crimes, including have been charged with various crimes, including "membership in an armed terrorist group" and "trying to destroy the government." Those charged included lawyers, journalists and members of the military. At the end of the investigation in the spring of 2008, 47 people were in custody.
The trial against 86 Ergenekon suspects began in on October 3, 2008. Nine of the first eleven hearings were taken up with reading the 2,455 page indictment aloud. The trial is being held in a room in Silivri Prison near Istanbul.