Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew
A case filed against a plot to assassinate the İstanbul-based leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians has been merged with the ongoing case into Ergenekon, a suspected criminal network charged with plotting to overthrow the Turkish government.
The merger decision came on Thursday during a hearing of the trial into the plot to kill Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew. The trial is being heard at the İstanbul 9th High Criminal Court. The only suspect in the case, İsmet Reçber, who was released last December pending trial, was not in attendance. During the hearing, prosecutor Selim Berna Atay requested the merger of the case with Ergenekon, which is being heard at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, on the grounds that there are legal and evidentiary links between the two cases.
The court accepted the request and the two cases have been merged. Reçber, a carpenter, was facing up to 15 years in prison. The man was arrested after an anonymous letter was sent to authorities claiming that Ergenekon suspect Gürbüz Çapan had planned the assassination and chose Reçber to carry out the killings.
The plot to kill Bartholomew is thought to be part of the Cage Action Plan, a subversive plot allegedly devised by military officers that sought to undermine the government through the assassination of non-Muslims and other acts of terror. The Cage plan was allegedly drawn up at the order of Ergenekon. Cage plan documents specifically call the killings of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, Catholic priest Father Andrea Santoro and three Christians in Malatya an “operation.” An anti-democratic group within the Naval Forces Command behind the Cage plan had intended to foment chaos in society with those killings, but complained that the plan had failed when large segments of society protested the killings in mass demonstrations.
During an interview in 2009, Bartholomew said that “dark forces planned to use minorities to overthrow the government, as revealed in the investigation into Ergenekon.”
Based in İstanbul, the spiritual leader of the world’s approximately 300 million Orthodox Christians was referring to the revelations of the Cage plan. “When the Cage plan was revealed, we thought the raid could be part of that plan,” he said. “At the time we thought that they were just trying to scare us.” Patriarch Bartholomew said he is grateful to the security forces, which uncovered the “dark plans.” “It is a very satisfactory development that the police and prosecutors have been revealing those dark plans so those responsible can be captured and tried.”