Zaman and its English-language sister Today’s Zaman work so hard to distort the facts of the Balyoz/Sledgehammer case that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they are complicit in the evidence fabrication that lies at the heart of the case.
Here is the opening paragraph* of a recent article from TZ, from October 7th:
“A colonel who is currently on trial as a suspect in the case regarding an alleged coup plot called Sledgehammer has said he was the person who hid crucial evidence under floor tiling at Gölcük Naval Base, refuting the defendants’ claims that a cabal inside the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had placed the documents under the tiles to frame the suspects.” (our emphasis)
This is simply untrue. The colonel did acknowledge preparing one document (which is in fact unrelated to Balyoz, and on which more later), but he did not say he hid the document – in Gölcük or elsewhere. In fact, when asked to explain how the document ended up at the Gölcük Naval Base, he replied: “you have to ask whoever placed the document there.” (See here for an account in Turkish of the court proceedings.)
It is mind boggling how a publication would print such a blatant lie. But it is not the first time, of course. Zaman, its editor and columnists have consistently distorted the facts and the evidence around the Balyoz case. You can see a sample of these distortions by typing “Zaman” in the search box of this blog. Nothing has convinced us more of the Gülen connection than this persistent effort to cover up the tracks left behind by the forgers.
Now on to the document itself. The story here is quite interesting because it opens a window on the forgers’ methods.
Click here to see the last page of the document found in Gölcük that the colonel acknowledged preparing. The document lists local elected officials and contains notes on their political leanings. Even at first sight, the document looks very different from any of the Balyoz documents: it is a paper document (not a digital one), carries the signature of the colonel, and has a handwritten date on it. Unlike the Balyoz documents, it has the “look” of an authentic document.
Importantly, the date on the document is “12.9.2002,” September 12, 2002. At that date, elections had yet to take place, the AKP had yet to take office, and the alleged plot to topple the AKP government (dated December 2002) had yet to be formulated. In other words, the document predates the events that precipitate the alleged plot by months. We may fault the gendarmerie for preparing “intelligence” reports of this kind, but to say that this document is part of the Balyoz plot or confirms its existence is simply absurd. As the colonel said in his defense, he did prepare the document, but it had nothing to do with any plot.
Here comes the even more interesting part. The forged CD no. 11 contains a digital Word document that is a virtual replica of this authentic paper document. Virtual, but not exact. You can see it here. The digital version is formatted differently, contains spelling mistakes, and (of course) doesn’t carry a signature. According to its metadata, it was first created on January 6, 2003, and last saved on February 4, 2003. If these dates were correct, the document could indeed have been part of the Balyoz plot. But we know they are not – because the “original” version of this document is actually dated three-and-a half months earlier (and also because we know the metadata in CD no. 11 have been manipulated).
So this is apparently what the forgers did. They had in their possession an authentic document that they could make look like it was part of the plot. But the date on this document was slightly “off,” so they recreated a digital version (obviously in a rush, in view of the typos) with the desired dates, and burned it on CD no. 11 along with all the other forged documents.
One final point, to emphasize the obvious. The documents that came out of Baransu’s suitcase or were found in Gölcük are not all forgeries. As we have written throughout, they bundle of authentic (but unrelated) documents along with fabricated (and incriminating) documents. So it is absurd to claim, as Zaman does, that the authenticity of a particular document renders the other, incriminating documents authentic as well.
*UPDATE. Today’s Zaman has deleted the incorrect statement in the online version of its article. See here for Today’s Zaman’s letter to us and for further discussion.