A Turkish military officer who was convicted of planning bombing and terrorist acts in the past was given command of one of Turkey’s most important naval bases, located in the southeastern port of Iskenderun, raising concerns that the Turkish government is bent on stoking tensions in the eastern Mediterranean with secret plots.
Nordic Monitor’s investigation of Iskenderun Naval Base Commander Rear Adm. Ercan Kireçtepe has revealed disturbing details about the track record of this neo-nationalist (Ulusalcı) military officer who was freed from jail in 2014 and promoted to admiral in 2018 by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Kireçtepe, then a lieutenant colonel at the age of 42, signed a 2009 secret military junta plan to kill prominent non-Muslim figures and detonate bombs near locations owned by non-Muslims. He was a member of the special marine team that brought Turkey to the brink of war with Greece in 1996 in the Kardak (Imia) islet crisis.
The appointment of this notorious figure as commander of the base in the eastern Mediterranean coincides with rising tensions in the region over drilling and exploration disputes in waters off Cyprus. Turkey has threatened to take any and every action to protect its interests and the rights of northern Turkish Cypriots and has sent exploration vessels and military gunships and frigates to the waters off the coast of Cyprus. The US and EU have warned Turkey not to raise tensions in the region, with the latter announcing punitive measures, mainly symbolic, against Turkey in a show of solidarity with the internationally recognized Cyprus government.
Nordic Monitor picked up on chatter that the Erdoğan government wants to tap in to Kireçtepe’s notorious skillset for devising secret plots in the eastern Mediterranean and stage a false flag operation to gain leverage and increase negotiating power in disputes to which Turkey is a party in the eastern Mediterranean.
The plot, titled the Cage Operation Action Plan, a copy of which was obtained by Nordic Monitor, was to be put into operation by a team of 41 members of the Naval Forces Command. The team was an illegal and anti-democratic formation and part of a junta operation within the Turkish navy. The plan was detailed in a CD seized in the office of retired Maj. Levent Bektaş, who was arrested in April 2009 for links to a large cache of munitions unearthed during excavations on land owned by the İstek Foundation in İstanbul’s Poyrazköy district. The action plan was to be implemented to lend support to the co-conspirators and other suspects arrested up until then as part of the Ergenekon investigation. The plotters hoped major sensational attacks would help intimidate the public and change the course of the agenda in Turkey.
The secret 6-page Cage Plan is posted below (Use arrows to move the pages.).Cage_Plan
The plan was divided into four phases: “Preparation,” “Raising Fear,” “Shaping Public Opinion” and “Action.” As part of the “Preparation” phase, the names and addresses of the country’s prominent non-Muslims would be determined. Then it would be ascertained to which newspapers and magazines they subscribe; which schools non-Muslims work for or send their children to; which associations or foundations they are members of; which places of worship they frequent; and where they hold their religious celebrations and rituals.
Then the action plan would jump to the second phase, which consisted of posting the subscribers to a Turkish Armenian biweekly, Agos, on a number of websites. The editor-in-chief of Agos, Hrant Dink, was shot dead in 2007 by an ultranationalist Turk. Letters that included threatening messages would be sent to Agos subscribers, and they would also receive threatening phone calls. Similar messages would be written on a number of walls of buildings in the Adalar district, which is home to hundreds of non-Muslim families.
In the “Shaping Public Opinion” phase, the list of Agos subscribers would make its way into some newspapers, and fabricated reports on the list would be featured in those newspapers. TV debates would focus on the reports, and columnists would be urged to write columns on them. Media would recall the Sept. 6-7, 1955 incidents, a state-sponsored campaign designed to transfer capital from minority businessmen to Muslim Turks and to intimidate non-Turkish communities into leaving their homeland to clear the way for a homogeneous Turkish state. Several websites would be established to disseminate propaganda.
The 4-page psychological warfare plan that details how to shape public opinion using non-Muslims.
The most appalling phase of the plan, “Action,” would include the assassination of prominent non-Muslim figures. As part of this phase, bomb attacks would be launched in Adalar; figures who defend the rights of non-Muslims would be assassinated; percussion bombs would be planted in places close to Agos; boats carrying passengers to the Adalar district would be bombed; prominent non-Muslim businessmen and artists would be kidnapped; and their homes and offices would be set on fire.
The action plan called the killings of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, Catholic priest Andrea Santoro and three Christians in Malatya an “operation.” The group aimed at fomenting chaos in society with those killings but complained that the plan failed when large groups protested the killings in mass demonstrations. “The operations created a large public outcry that non-Muslims in the country were the target of reactionary groups. But society stood by non-Muslims with a ‘We are all Armenians’ campaign,” the bullet points in the document state.
The plan also revealed that the anti-democratic formation within the Naval Forces Command was being led by three admirals, identified as Ali Feyyaz Öğütçü, Kadir Sağdıç and M. Fatih İlgar, who formed the advisory board for the Cage plan. The operation was coordinated by the Special Operations Command led by retired Maj. Levent Bektaş and Navy Col. Mücahit Erakyol. Kireçtepe was the leader of two cells made up of five men each under the Marmara Regional Command. His team members were led by Maj. Emre Onat (the first cell leader) and Maj. Emre Sezenler (the second cell leader). Similar cell-based formations were planned for the Aegean and Black Sea Regional Commands, led by Maj. Metin Sabancı and Maj. İsmail Zühtü Tümer, respectively.
Two-page secret cell units with the names of junta members who were tasked with committing murders and bombings and waging psychological warfare.Cage_Plan_Cells
A note in the plan reads that the group would continue to carry it out even if caches of munitions stored underground in various parts of Turkey were unearthed as part of ongoing investigations by prosecutors. “Some weapons and ammunition have been seized by security forces. However, we still have enough of them for future operations. … We are experiencing temporary problems in the recruitment of staff for the ‘organization,’ but the training level of our current staff is high,” reads the note.
The two-page secret document that lists the arms, explosives and ammunition to be used to commit the murders and carry out the bombings:
Hundreds of weapons and thousands of bullets have been found, either hidden or abandoned on roadsides since the start of the Ergenekon investigation in July 2007, when a house full of ammunition and weapons was discovered in İstanbul’s Ümraniye district. A list of munitions attached to the Cage Plan indicates that it was aimed at fomenting chaos in society and clashes between the country’s Muslims and non-Muslims.
The list of munitions mentioned in the Cage Plan document to carry out murders and terrorist acts includes several sniper rifles, 5 Glock handguns, 30 machine guns, 900 subsonic projectiles, 20 pounds of C4 explosives, 20 pounds of C3 explosives, 20 pounds of C8 explosives, 100 detonators, dozens of hand grenades, 150 smoke cans, 2 tons of ammonium nitrate and hundreds of bullets.
The Cage Plan document was authenticated in a report issued by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK). The report established that the signature appearing on the document belongs to Lt. Col. Ercan Kireçtepe. According to the report a comparison of his signature on the document and those he gave as part of the investigation leave no room for doubt that they belong to the same person.
The eight-page document listing the names of Armenian churches and foundations that was seized from the suspects, who were plotting murders, bombings and intimidation campaigns targeting non-Muslims.Armenian_church_foundations
Kireçtepe was detained on April 22, 2009 and formally arrested two days later as part of the Poyrazköy investigation. He was released on January 27, 2014, when Erdoğan decided to cut a deal with a neo-nationalist group led by Doğu Perinçek in order to escape the graft probes that had incriminated him, his family members and his business and political associates. Prosecutors in the case and the judges who heard the trial were arbitrarily removed by the government, and on October 2, 2015 the court under new judges ruled to acquit him and other co-conspirators in a scandalous decision despite overwhelming, incriminating evidence collected by the investigators.
The Erdoğan government also punished the media outlet and journalist who uncovered and published the Cage Plan. The liberal Taraf daily, which had first reported on the plan in its headline story on November 19, 2009, was shut down by the government in 2016, and Mehmet Baransu, the investigative journalist who broke the story, has been in prison since 2015 on fabricated charges.