Summary and Current Status
Kemal Yalçin Alemdaroglu is a Turkish medical doctor and a certified general surgeon. He also is former rector of Istanbul University. Dr. Alemdaroglu was arrested on March 21, 2008, and accused of being connected to “Ergenekon,” an alleged armed terrorist organization. He was arrested amidst an ongoing investigation into what prosecutors alleged was an attempt to provoke the overthrow of the current government by military coup. (The case is referred to as “Ergenekon.”) Dr. Alemdaroglu was released three days later, on March 24, 2008 pending the outcome of the trial.
The investigation of “Ergenekon” began in 2007, and arrests continued for several years. At first, the Ergenekon case consisted of several separate indictments. Eventually, as the trials dragged on, the court fused all of the defendants into one mass trial consisting of 275 defendants. On August 5, 2013, the court finally issued verdicts in the case. The court acquitted 21 of the defendants, and the remainder were sentenced to lengthy sentences, including consecutive life sentences for some. Dr. Alemdaroglu was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months. He was taken into custody shortly thereafter and was ordered to remain in prison pending the outcome of his appeal. In early 2014, a number of defendants in the Ergenekon case were released from prison, including Dr. Alemdaroglu, who was freed from Silivri prison on March 10. A few days prior to the releases, one of the alleged leaders of Ergenekon who had been given a life sentence was released under the orders of an Istanbul court on the grounds that his constitutional right to appeal his conviction had been violated. (Turkish law stipulates that cases cannot be appealed until judges have submitted written "reasonings" justifying their verdict. The judges who issued verdicts in the Ergenekon case have not to date submitted their "reasonings.")
Dr. Alemdaroglu was detained by Turkish authorities in connection with the “Ergenekon” case. Ergenekon—which, in a legend about the genesis of the Turkish people, refers to the Turks’ mythical homeland—is the name given to an alleged illegal ultranationalist group consisting of former military and police officers, politicians, journalists, and some intellectuals. Over the past four years several hundred people have been detained in connection with the investigation. More than 175 of those were arrested and accused of plotting to destabilize the country and paving the way for a military coup. Since the first cache of weapons was discovered in 2007, additional weapons have been found, including, in early 2009, missile launchers, plastic explosives, and ammunition. Given that a significant number of those arrested in the Ergenekon case in 2009 are opposition figures from intellectual circles and secularist civil society groups, there was growing concern that the investigation was politicized and targeted critics and opponents of the ruling AKP’s policies.
As noted in the Summary section, Dr. Alemdaroglu was one of the co-defendants named in the “Ergenekon” case. According to the prosecution, he and other suspects were identified in the course of the Turkish government’s “Ergenekon” investigation, which began in June 2007 when 27 hand grenades and explosives were discovered in the Istanbul home of a retired noncommissioned Turkish military officer. According to Human Rights Watch:
"[E]vidence suggests that the grenades were similar to those used in attacks on the Istanbul offices of the daily newspaper, Cumhuriyet, in May 2006 and the armed attack on judges at the Council of State in April 2006. The investigation that followed uncovered evidence pointing to a much larger conspiracy, including evidence of plans to assassinate the prime minister, the former chief of staff, several members of Parliament from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, the writer Orhan Pamuk, and others.”
Ergenekon—which, in a legend about the genesis of the Turkish people, refers to the Turks’ mythical homeland—is the name given to an illegal alleged ultranationalist group consisting of former military and police officers, politicians, journalists, and some intellectuals. Over the past few years several hundred people were detained in connection with the investigation. More than 175 of those were arrested and accused of plotting to destabilize the country and pave the way for a military coup. Since the first cache of weapons was discovered in 2007, additional weapons were found, including, in early 2009, missile launchers, plastic explosives, and ammunition. Given that a significant number of those arrested in the Ergenekon case in 2008 and 2009 were opposition figures from intellectual circles and secularist civil society groups, like Dr. Alemdaroglu, there was great concern that the investigation was politicized, targeting critics and opponents of the ruling Islamist party’s policies.
On October 20, 2008, in a 2,455-page indictment, 86 people—including senior retired military officers, alleged members of organized crime, leading figures from the media, academics, lawyers, and activists from civil society organizations—were brought to trial allegedly for crimes they committed as members of Ergenekon. Subsequently, two more groups of people, also alleged to be members of Ergenekon, were indicted. As noted above, eventually, all 275 defendants were fused into one mass trial. A courtroom with a capacity of 740 people was built, in Silivri prison where many of the defendants were held, specifically for the trial.
According to news reports, all of the individuals indicted in this case were accused of carrying out at least one activity listed in the indictment with the intention of bringing about the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Turkey. Alleged activities reportedly included setting up and leading a terrorist organization; attempting to destroy the government and parliament or hindering them from carrying out their duties; recording personal data and leaking footage of compromising recordings; acquiring, destroying, falsifying, and stealing secret documents on Turkish intelligence; and carrying explosives and firing weapons to threaten lives. Dr. Alemdaroglu reportedly was charged with “forming and running an alleged armed terrorist organization named “Ergenekon” and steering it to a forcible rebellion against government.”