Former Higher Education Board (YÖK) President Kemal Gürüz was arrested on Monday after prosecutors overseeing the probe into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention referred him to court, requesting his arrest for his role in the 1997 coup that forced a civilian government to resign.
Specially Authorized Ankara Public Prosecutor Kemal Çetin referred Gürüz, who testified for about three hours at the Ankara Courthouse, to the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court for arrest. The court complied with the request and ruled in favor of Gürüz's arrest.
On Friday, police detained several civilians in relation to the ongoing investigation. Gürüz, one of the suspects, could not be detained or summoned to testify as he was abroad. He returned to Turkey on Sunday.
In his first statement to the press, he said: “I used the powers vested in me by the law. I never overstepped those. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I don't know what Feb. 28 is.”
Two people were taken into custody and detention warrants were issued for two others on Friday as part of the sixth wave of operations in a deepening investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, popularly known as the postmodern coup.
Prosecutors involved in the Feb. 28 investigation earlier this year seized documents and correspondence between Gen. Çevik Bir, the general who led the intervention, and Gürüz, strengthening suspicions that the former YÖK head played a major role in the 1997 coup. The documents were relayed to the West Study Group (BÇG), which was established by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to carry out the fight against religious fundamentalism and which kept records of the ideological and religious backgrounds of academics and university students.
A message signed by Bir on July 14, 1998, and sent to Gürüz, demands that a new education system be adopted to discourage students from attending religious imam-hatip high schools. The correspondence is believed to suggest the application of a lower coefficient to calculate the university admission exam scores of graduates of vocational high schools, including imam-hatip high schools. The YÖK General Council held a meeting on Aug. 30, almost 45 days after Gürüz received Bir's letter, in which such a coefficient system was discussed. It was subsequently put into practice in 1999. The new system made it virtually impossible for graduates of vocational high schools to attend university.
Gürüz was detained in 2009 as part of the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of being nested within the state bureaucracy and working to overthrow democratically elected governments, but was later released pending trial. An indictment in the Ergenekon case asserted that Gürüz was working to “shape university administrations” both during his term in office at YÖK and after he retired. According to the indictment, Gürüz tried to influence appointments of rectors to universities even after his retirement.