More Feb. 28 protagonists detained in second wave of operations

This 2000 file photo shows retired Maj. Gen. Erol Özkasnak. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

April 19, 2012, Thursday/ 09:49:00

More military officers, including retired army members such as Gen. Erol Özkasnak, a leading actor who played a major role in the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, were detained on Thursday after the Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor's Office issued warrants for eight retired and four active-duty officers as part of a deepening probe into the 1997 coup.

More active duty and retired military officers were detained on Thursday as prosecutors deepened a probe into the 1997 military intervention. The detainees included retired Gen. Özkasnak, who was the first to describe Feb. 28 as a postmodern coup

Police raided 12 addresses in seven provinces, including Adana, Afyonkarahisar, Ankara, Eskişehir, İstanbul, İzmir and Muğla. Six of the officers, including several retired ones, were detained upon an order from the Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor's Office, which is overseeing the 1997 coup investigation.

The detainees, suspected of playing a major role in the Feb. 28 coup, when the military forced a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party, the Welfare Party (RP), out of government, include retired Gen. Özkasnak, who termed the intervention a postmodern coup.

Özkasnak was the secretary-general of the General Staff at the time and is known to have played a major role in the coup generals' communication with the media to put pressure on the government to resign.

Forty police officers, Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor Oğuzhan Dönmez and Bodrum District Police Chief Ömer Akgün joined the searches in Özkasnak's house in Bodrum, Muğla province, on Thursday. Police took tight security measures around the retired general's home. Özkasnak was detained after a four-hour search at his home. Other detainees include Col. Ahmet Dağcı in Ankara, retired senior Col. Yaşar Bülent Aksaray and retired Lt. Col. Güneş Kıral in İstanbul, retired Col. Veli Seyit in Eskişehir and retired Col. Osman Bülbül in İzmir. Searches in the residences of other suspects were still in progress when Today's Zaman went to print. The detained military officers will be taken to Ankara after medical checkups at hospitals close to their places of residence.

They will be interrogated by prosecutors in Ankara. Thursday’s operation follows another one last week. The Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office last week issued warrants for 31 people, including retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the 1997 coup. The suspects were questioned by prosecutors and 18 of them, including Gen. Bir, were jailed.

Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili is conducting the investigation into the actions of the generals of the time, including then-Chief of General Staff Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı, National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General Gen. Tuncer Kılınç and former Land Forces Commander Gen. Erdal Ceylanoğlu. These officers, who have all since retired, are all suspects in the investigation.

Reportedly at the heart of the Feb. 28 investigation are the actions of the West Study Group (BÇG), which was established within the military to categorize politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats according to their religious and ideological backgrounds before and after the coup. Bir, the deputy chief of General Staff at the time, was the head of the BÇG.

The Feb. 28 coup introduced a series of harsh restrictions on religious life, with an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of the Islamic headscarf. The military was purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups.

In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down after the coup based on an MGK decision that required closer monitoring of media outlets. However, none of the military figures who had a hand in overthrowing the RP government have been tried.

Commenting on the investigation on Thursday, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım said no criminal action can remain unpunished in democracies.

“No one can act arbitrarily in democracies,” he said.

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Thursday that he sees the deepening probe into Feb. 28 as a sign of Turkey’s normalization.

“We should all fix our standing before the law,” Yıldız said.

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