Court says torture claims to be investigated in 1980 coup case

Court says torture claims to be investigated in 1980 coup case

A Turkish woman holds a placard with a combination of images showing seven leftist students killed before a coup on the second day of a trial of two elderly leaders of a 1980 military coup, outside a courthouse in Ankara on April 5, 2012. (Photo: AP)

April 06, 2012, Friday/ 16:02:00

An Ankara court  accepted a request on Friday, from a prosecutor overseeing the recently launched 1980 coup case, to also investigate victim claims of torture, maltreatment and murder by torture during the coup era.

More than 30 years after the Sept. 12, 1980 military takeover, the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court began hearing the case against retired general and former President Kenan Evren and former commander of the Air Force Tahsin Şahinkaya -- two surviving leaders of the bloody 1980 coup that shaped the country for three decades. On Wednesday during the first hearing, the court had asked the Ankara Prosecutor's Office whether the prosecutors were also investigating torture claims against Evren and Şahinkaya.

The prosecutor's office said in response on Friday during the third hearing of the case that such charges can be filed against the two suspects and other alleged torturers. The office said it would be beneficial for complainants and co-plaintiffs to submit information, evidence, documents and eyewitness accounts related to these charges to the court. The court which announced its interim ruling on Friday agreed to the investigation of claims of torture during the coup era.

The indictment in the case, which seeks life imprisonment for Evren and Şahinkaya, contains many allegations of torture carried out during the military intervention.

Meanwhile, during Friday's hearing, prosecutor Kemal Çetin asked the court to reject requests filed by co-plaintiff lawyers in the case for the arrest of Evren and Şahinkaya, saying the two suspects are both ill and a “judicial control” issued earlier for them, which severely restricts their movement and includes monitoring by police, is enough. However, he did ask the court to obtain a forensic report on their health situation to determine whether or not they could appear in court.

The court rejected requests for the  arrest of Evren and Şahinkaya as it announced its interim ruling.

Neither Evren nor Şahinkaya have appeared in court so far due to poor health. Prosecutors have not begun reading the indictment as the suspects were not in attendance.

During the court hearing, victims' lawyers argued the two should be forced to attend. “According to the constitution, every citizen is equal before the courts and every Turkish citizen is to be tried before Turkey's courts,” lawyer Ural Gündoğan, who represents a number of leftist coup victims, told the court. Evren and Şahinkaya must be brought before the court, he said, “to make them understand the equality article of the constitution … and by force if necessary.”

Evren and Şahinkaya should be treated no differently from former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who were both forced to appear in court despite their advanced age and ill health, lawyers contend. “Just as Hosni Mubarak was brought to court and questioned in a cage and Pinochet was brought in a wheelchair, Evren should be brought in on a hospital bed if necessary. Evren was no less of a dictator than them,” lawyer Celahattin Can said.  

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said on Friday that it is the court which will make the decision about whether the suspects should be brought to the court by force.

In addition, the General Staff has failed to reply to requests from the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court about the Bayrak (Flag) Operation Plan, which was a written document prepared in the staging of the 1980 coup. The Bayrak Operation Plan proves that the coup was a planned act of the military.

Baykal says still settling accounts with coup

Contrary to what former President Süleyman Demirel said, former leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and a current CHP deputy Deniz Baykal said he will continue to settle accounts with the Sept. 12 coup.

 

As the leaders of the 1980 coup were put on trial on Wednesday, Demirel -- whose government was overthrown by the coup leaders -- explained earlier this week why he did not seek co-plaintiff status in the case, saying he had already settled accounts with the coup through the public support he won later.

Speaking to Milliyet daily on Friday, Baykal said he respects Demirel's views and he had also settled accounts with the Sept. 12 coup in the sense that Demirel meant; however, his confrontation with the coup still continues.

Baykal is among the deposed politicians who were exiled in Zincirbozan -- named after the military camp in Çanakkale (Gallipoli) -- following the Sept. 12 coup.

“For me, the political confrontation with Sept. 12 has not ended. My settling accounts with the regime established by the Sept. 12 continues and it will continue until the damage inflicted on the democratic, secular regime in Turkey due to the coup is eliminated and a comprehensive and real democracy is achieved in Turkey,” Baykal said.

At the second hearing of the Sept. 12 trial on Tuesday, 104-year-old Berfo Kırbayır, known as Nana Berfo, whose son Cemil was killed after he was detained by gendarmerie during the junta regime, was in attendance as a co-plaintiff in the case.

“Where is Kenan Evren? Wasn't he ashamed to do this to my son? What did he do to my son? He demolished my family,” said Nana Berfo when she was allowed to speak by the presiding judge of the case, Süleyman İnce.

The beginning of the Sept. 12 trial not only pleased coup victims, but also ended a 32-year-long protest of a coup victim who has so far refused to wear any color other than black.

Şeyho Karakoç, 74, had been wearing black since the coup in order to protest the junta administration and the tortures he was subjected to during the coup period.

Karakoç ended his protest and wore a blue shirt as the Sept. 12 trial began on Wednesday. He said he will wear white from head to toe if Evren and Şahinkaya are brought to court as suspects.

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