Drug smuggler worked for government

 

A SCANDAL over Turkey's alleged use of gangsters as political hit men deepened yesterday, after official testimony that a drug smuggler wanted for murder had carried out missions abroad for the security establishment.

Former interior ministry adviser, Mr Korkut Eken, told a parliamentary inquiry that the farright mobster, Abdullah Catli, had worked with security officials lord years, parliamentary sources said. "He said he knew Catli and that [the gangster] had worked for the state, even before 1980," a source close to the commission of inquiry said.

A leading intelligence officer told the same inquiry on Thursday that Turkey's intelligence service, MIT, had co operated with Catli in unspecified foreign ventures in the 1980s.

It was the strongest confirmation of media and opposition reports that leading officials were closely linked to underworld figures in the past. The reports say the links may still exist.

Catli is central to a scandal that erupted on November 3rd, when he died in a traffic accident as a passenger in a car also carrying a senior policeman and a government MP from the Foreign Minister, Ms Tansu Ciller's True Path Party.

The interior minister, also from Ms Ciller's party, quit last month amid accusations that Turkish officials used gangsters in the 1990s to kill Kurdish rebel sympathisers and business rivals in exchange for ignoring gangland drug smuggling and money laundering.

Ms Ciller told members of a crack police unit not to be demoralised by accusations that some of its members were embroiled in illegal killings and the drugs trade. "There have been unjustified attacks against you recently. I know how much that has saddened you," she said in an address to a police academy near Ankara.

The Islamist led coalition government of the Prime Minister, Mr Necmettin Erbakan, has shown few signs of cracking in the face of media reports that Ms Ciller's businessman husband and several members of her party are close to the mob.

Pro Islam backbench MPs are uneasy about a speech last month by Ms Ciller in which she indirectly praised Catli as a patriot.

Catli, a member of the extreme right Grey Wolves movement, was wanted for the killing of seven Turkish left wingers in 1978. Catli spent time in jail in France and Switzerland for drug smuggling in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Turkish courts have accepted the use of Kurdish language translators in cases where necessary, the Istanbul based Kurdish Association for Kurdish Culture and Language Research (Kurtkav), said yesterday.

"We are happy and hopeful, as we see this as a change in the handling of the Kurdish problems. This is how it can be solved," said Kurtkav chairman, Mr Yilmaz Camlibel.

Kurtkav applied to the Justice Ministry two months ago to fill the gap for registered Kurdish translators in cases where witnesses do not speak Turkish.

"We are happy our application was granted. This shows that the Kurdish language has been recognised," Mr Camlibel said.

Turkish authorities long denied the existence of a Kurdish language. Turkish court records previously read "he or she spoke in an unknown language ..." when Kurdish was spoken in courts.