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Feb. 28 general to testify regarding Bitlis' death.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- Former Deputy Chief of General Staff retired Gen. Ecevik Bir, who is currently under arrest as part of an ongoing investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, was brought to the Ankara Courthouse on Monday to testify regarding the 1993 death of a gendarmerie general.

Bir was due to testify to prosecutor HE-seyin E[currency]ahin, whose office specializes in anti-terrorism, as part of an investigation into the death of Gen. EE-ref Bitlis, who was killed in a plane crash in 1993 while investigating questionable links between the military and terrorists and other groups. In October 2010, the Ankara Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into the death of Bitlis, mostly based on statements from retired Col. Arif Doy-an, who claims to be the founder of JyTEM, a clandestine and illicit unit within the gendarmerie believed to be responsible for thousands of disappearances and murders in the Kurdish Southeast as well as several high-profile assassinations. Ahmet Euzal -- the son of Turkey's eighth president, Turgut Euzal -- had also made statements earlier saying he had reason to believe Bitlis' death was not an accident.

It wasn't clear what questions would be posed to Bir, who was head of the General Staff Operations Unit at the time, by the prosecution.

Also in 2010, a colonel who was unnamed in reports spoke to Turkish newspapers following the re-launching of the Bitlis death investigation. He claimed that the flight report issued in the initial investigation 20 years ago had been changed.

"On the evening of Feb. 16, it was extremely cold and there was ice. On Feb. 17 there was heavy sleet. I woke up in Etimesgut [where the military airbase was located] in the early hours of the morning and did the routine checks. I spoke with the meteorology department. I reported that no flights could take off that day, and I went home to rest after that. But about four or five hours after I got home, the shocking news of Gen. Bitlis' death came. I couldn't believe it. The first thing I said was: 'Damn these people. They knowingly sent him to his death'."

The colonel said no one at the Etimesgut base was informed that the general would fly out despite the no-flight report. "I later found out that he was able to fly out under special clearance from Gen. Armay-an Kuloy-lu. I rushed to the base right away, and we immediately went to the crash site."

The colonel said the technical team worked for more than a month to draft the report on the crash. "According to our findings, the administration was 40 percent at fault. The entire report was based on this. It was a very detailed report. About one-and-a-half months after drafting the report, I was invited to General Staff headquarters. They put the report in front of me. I looked at it and saw that it had changed. They reduced the administration's responsibility to just over five percent. I voiced my objection. But four generals on the other side of the table -- including one who would later become a force commander -- harshly told me to sign the document. I was shocked."

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Jan 7, 2013
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