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World Perspective | SCANDAL

Ex-Spy Spins Web of Collusion in Turkey's War Against Kurds

August 19, 2000|AMBERIN ZAMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANKARA, Turkey — For years, Turkey's political establishment faced--and managed to fend off--assertions that it colluded with drug traffickers, hit men and gunrunners in its 15-year war against Kurdish separatists.

Since the separatists' defeat last year, however, the allegations have resurfaced from an unlikely and embarrassing source--a former chief of counterintelligence for Turkey's spy agency.

Mehmet Eymur, who served in the National Intelligence Agency for three decades, is creating an uproar here with his popular 5-month-old Web site, whose reports tarring dozens of officials are picked up daily by Turkey's newspapers and hastily denied by the accused.

From self-imposed exile in Washington, the former spy faces criminal charges at home for divulging state secrets.

But there is little doubt that his painstakingly documented disclosures are bringing new pressure on the government to prosecute officials accused of collaborating with mobsters who trained Kurdish mercenaries to fight Kurdish rebels.

Western governments have faulted successive Turkish administrations for laxity in fighting this country's flourishing drug trade. The State Department has reported that as much as 75% of the heroin seized in Europe last year "transited Turkey, was processed there or was seized in connection with Turkish criminal syndicates."

Turkey's prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, is credited with cracking down on drug lords. An alleged Kurdish heroin kingpin, Urfi Cetinkaya, was arrested in Istanbul this week.

Yet politicians and security officials implicated in drug-related corruption scandals remain untouched. Several, including a man privately described by U.S. drug enforcement officials as a "well-known heroin chemist," were reelected to parliament last year.

Eymur's decision to remove himself to Washington has invited speculation that he is being encouraged by the U.S. government. Some critics say he is trying to discredit Senkal Atasagun, the national intelligence chief who forced him into retirement two years ago.

"He is waging psychological war under the American flag against the Turkish army, in line with the CIA's directives," said Dogu Perincek, the leader of a small leftist party who is on the former spy's list of accused.

In a telephone interview, Eymur vigorously denied the charges, saying he's seeking only "to help Turkish justice" while remaining outside the country and "waiting for Turkey to become a full-fledged democracy."

"If there was even one Turkish official [whom I could rely on], if he could send me his phone number, I would gladly shut down my Web site and call him," Eymur stated recently on the site, http://www.atin.org, which has had nearly 1 million visitors since its March 8 launch.

Among other incriminating evidence, the site carries transcripts of the alleged confessions of a Kurdish rebel-turned-informer named Mahmut Yildrim, who has been linked to the slayings of several prominent Kurdish intellectuals and drug dealers. Yildrim, whose intelligence agency code name was "Green," was promptly freed after telling police interrogators of his connections with top Turkish officials, the site alleges.

In its battle against the separatists, the Turkish state is widely accused of having enlisted many such characters, who, under state protection, killed Kurdish drug dealers and muscled in on their trade. Eymur has claimed that "Green," whose whereabouts remain a mystery, shared drug profits with "various police chiefs and [members of] the gendarmerie. This is not a secret."

Turkish officials have consistently blamed the drug trade on rebels of the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party, whose leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured, tried for treason and sentenced to death last year as the insurgency collapsed.

But intriguing evidence of ties between government officials and Turkish criminals, including drug dealers, emerged in November 1996 after a car crash in the small town of Susurluk. A police chief and a convicted heroin smuggler were among the dead. Sedat Bucak, a Kurdish lawmaker, survived the crash and claimed to have lost his memory.

A parliamentary investigation into why this unlikely trio was traveling in the same car came to nothing, and critics of the government suspect a cover-up. Bucak has been reelected to parliament.

"Unfortunately," Eymur said, "in Turkey, one scandal ends only to be followed by another."

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