Nine suspects, who appeared before a judge after testifying to prosecutors conducting the investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention, were sent to jail pending trial early on Sunday morning, while seven others were released
Nine suspects who appeared before a judge after testifying to prosecutors were sent to jail pending trial early on Sunday morning, while seven others were released. Retired Rear Adm. Abdullah Kılıçarslan was among those sent to jail. Bir and 11 other suspects will face the judge after their questioning by prosecutors is completed. The content of his testimony was not immediately available to the public, but in his testimony to the police on Friday, he admitted that he gave all of the orders under which his signature appears. Three suspects for whom warrants have been issued remain at large. The Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor's Office is conducting the investigation. Bir's testimony to prosecutors lasted about two hours.
In related developments, newspapers reported on Sunday that retired Gen. Çevik Bir asked the General Staff if military officials would meet him upon his arrival in Ankara, where he was taken on Friday after being detained. One of Bir's lawyers called the General Staff Headquarters on Friday, inquiring as to whether or not they would send an official to the airport.
The answer was “no,” according to reports. The General Staff has been very careful to distant itself from the investigation but it has shown concern for the safety and health of the former military officers who have been detained. A special military security team is on stand-by in case of an unexpected health emergency or a surprise release of any of the generals.
Earlier this month, Turkey put two elderly leaders involved in the 1980 coup on trial. Hundreds of suspects, including several senior retired and active duty officers, are separately on trial for allegedly plotting to topple the current government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2003.
The military, which has overthrown the government in Turkey three times since 1960, pressured late Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan’s government out of office in 1997, without the use of force. Erbakan’s Islamic Welfare Party (RP) had won the 1995 election, which opened the way for a greater role for Islam in Turkey’s political, social and cultural life.
On Sunday Erdoğan, who spoke at a party meeting, responded to criticism from opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu that the Feb. 28 investigation was being conducted with a sense of revenge. “None of the judicial proceedings about the Sept. 12 coup, the Feb. 28 coup, or other [coup-related] proceedings are being carried out for revenge. They are being conducted on behalf of the nation. These are not being done for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), they are for Turkey, for Turkey’s future and for the good of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).”
He added that the AK Party submitted a proposal for the establishment of a parliamentary commission to investigate all of Turkey’s past coups.
Feb. 28 investigation
Meanwhile, a number of military officers who were dismissed from the military during the 1997 coup era filed complaints against the generals who ended their careers, usually based on false accusations.
Many officers were dismissed by the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) during the 1997 coup era, mostly due to their religious beliefs, although YAŞ decisions always cited different reasons. On Saturday, 21 former military officers filed criminal complaints against 14 retired generals including former Chief of General Staff İsmail Hakkı Karadayı, Deputy Chief of General Staff Çevik Bir, Secretary-General of the General Staff Erol Özkasnak, National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General İlhan Kılıç and Karadayı’s successor, Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu.
Also on Saturday ten nurses who were fired from their jobs at Erciyes Universiy’s Gevher Nesibe Hospital for no apparent reason filed a criminal complaint. During the 1997 coup period, many people were fired from their jobs at public agencies in line with the military’s policy of isolating religious people.
Evidence that has emerged as part of the ongoing investigation into the perpetrators of the Feb. 28, 1997 shows that the generals who were responsible for the overthrowing of the government at the time accused a former chief of general staff and a defense minister of treason, negligence and disloyalty to the military.
Prosecutors assert that retired Gen. Bir gave orders to send letters to individuals, such as former Chief of General Staff retired Gen. Doğan Güreş, accusing them of treason. Another person targeted by the accusations was Mehmet Gölhan, the former defense minister. Prosecutors say Col. Cengiz Çetinkaya implemented Bir’s orders.
Güreş was a deputy from the True Path Party (DYP) at the time, a coalition partner of the government that had to step down. He had been criticized for his membership in the DYP. The criticism went beyond simple disapproval, though, according to a document submitted by the Voice of the People Party (HAS Party) to the prosecutors conducting the probe. The document indicates Bir ordered that a letter campaign be launched against Güreş. The letters sent to him were to include the expressions “Aren’t you bothered because you are supporting this government? How do you explain this given your military background? Atatürk has seen and warned about many things, but he failed to see the disloyalty and treason of an officer who commanded the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK].”
As part of the investigation, police took several former generals into custody on Thursday. Among them was Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the coup and is the most important figure amongst those arrested.
Politicians, journalists and public opinion leaders have praised the move.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli was the last to offer comments on the investigation. In his first ever statement on the subject, which was made on Saturday, Bahçeli said the perpetrators of should be punished as they deserve. However, he warned that as the investigation continues, the principle of presumption of innocence should be observed.