ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–The bilingual weekly newspaper Agos on Tuesday was admitted to take part in a high-profile trial, dubbed the “Cage trial,” which deals with an alleged plot suspected of being linked to the assassination of its editor in chief, Hrant Dink.
The first hearing of the trial was held Tuesday at the Besiktas courthouse in Istanbul. Aris Nalci, the news editor at the Istanbul-based Agos, which publishes in Turkish and Armenian, submitted the application to be a party to the case and was accepted with the approval of two of the court’s three judges.
The trial will focus on the activities of a group alleged to support a radical division between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The first hearing started with suspect Metin Samanci’s demand that the court recognize what he called its lack of jurisdiction and transfer the case to a military court, on the grounds that all the suspects in the case were either active or retired military personnel.
The courtroom also saw debate on whether the weekly newspaper was a victim of the alleged crimes. Lawyer Fethiye Cetin argued that the Cage plan directly targeted Agos and its readers, saying the alleged organization is connected to the murder of Dink, as well as the Zirve Publishing House massacre in Malatya and the murder of Priest Santro in Trabzon.
Lawyer Celal Ulgen said, however, that the evidence in the case was either gathered unlawfully or is untrue.
After a recess, the court accepted Agos’ demand and rejected Samanci’s, with a dissenting opinion from Oktay Kuban on both counts. The suspects’ relatives and the lawyers for Agos exchanged angry remarks during the recess, though the verbal confrontation did not lead to any further incidents.
The Cage allegations emerged in the wake of the Poyrazkoy excavations in April 2009 that unearthed a large amount of ammunitions. Further investigation revealed the Cage plans at the office of retired Maj. Levent Bektas and led to the questioning of many Navy officers.
The plan’s inception stage purportedly includes actions such as determining the names and addresses of non-Muslim citizens, collecting data on their temples and schools, making threatening calls and writing graffiti slogans on places they frequent, such as the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul. The execution stage, according to the indictment, would include setting off bombs and assassinating supporters of minority and non-Muslim rights.
According to the Cage indictment, the top suspect is retired Adm. Ali Feyyaz Ogutcu, the former commander of the North Sea zone. The case has a total of 33 suspects who are being charged with membership in an armed terrorist organization and could face prison sentences of between 7.5 years and 15 years if found guilty.
The Cage case has also been linked to the investigation into an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang known as Ergenekon. Since that case started in 2007, more than nearly 200 journalists, writers, military personnel, gang leaders, scholars, businessmen and politicians have been arrested on accusations of planning to topple the government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.