The detainees are suspected of playing a major role in the Feb. 28 coup, in which the military forced a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party, the Welfare Party (RP), out of government, an event that has been termed 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 were joined by Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor Oğuzhan Dönmez and Bodrum District Police Chief Ömer Akgün in the searches of Özkasnak’s house in Bodrum on Thursday. Police enforced tight security measures around the retired general’s home. After a four-hour search of the premises, Özkasnak was detained.
Other detainees include Col. Ahmet Dağcı in Ankara, retired senior Col. Yaşar Bülent in Aksaray, retired Lt. Col. Güneş Kıral in İstanbul, retired Col. Veli Seyit in Eskişehir and retired Col. Osman Bülbül in İzmir. 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.
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.
April 14, Saturday
Mehmet Görmez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, sharply criticized Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh of Saudi Arabia, saying, “Non-Muslim communities living in Muslim areas are entrusted to Muslims, and no Muslim has the right nor the authority to betray those entrusted to them.” In an interview with Today’s Zaman, Görmez stressed that efforts should be made to eradicate firmly held hatred resulting from Islamophobia and racism. Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti reportedly called for the destruction of all churches in the Gulf during a meeting with a delegation from the Kuwait-based Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage, in response to a question about Shariah law and the construction of churches in Muslim countries.
April 15, Sunday
Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said there are strong claims that Iran has been unlawfully using Iraqi airspace to convey weapons and ammunition to Syria. According to Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi government on charges of terrorism, Iraq is being used as a corridor for Iranian weapons to reach Syria.
The Nahda Network, initiated by the independent pro-democracy civil society organization Young Civilians (Genç Siviller), brought together academics, journalists and activists from Turkey and Middle Eastern nations over the weekend for a summit in Bursa to discuss a number of topics related to Turkey’s domestic issues as well as its diplomatic role in the region. Nahda Network Director Ceren Kenar called the organization’s Bursa summit over the weekend groundbreaking in that it provided Turkish journalists the opportunity to listen and learn from their Syrian counterparts during the Arab Spring uprisings. “We exposed Turkish columnists and journalists to the voices of Syrian journalists and activists. In a way, it was groundbreaking because it served as an educational opportunity,” Kenar told Today’s Zaman.
Former head of the National Police Department’s Intelligence Unit Bülent Orakoğlu claimed that the generals who formed the Western Study Group (BÇG), a clique of coup plotters who staged the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, had negotiations with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but the government in power did not know about these talks.
Parliament decided to establish a research commission to investigate the coups that brought down a number of governments. The four parties in Parliament cooperated to establish the commission.
A dozen suspects detained as part of the probe into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention in politics, including retired Gen. Çevik Bir, testified to prosecutors after being questioned by police on Saturday. Bir is one of 31 suspects for whom detention warrants were issued on Thursday as part of the probe of the 1997 military intervention into politics, which eventually forced the government to resign -- widely referred to as the “postmodern coup.”
April 16, Monday
On the eve of the NATO foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels and weeks before the NATO Chicago summit, US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker warned Iran about its policy vis-à-vis Turkey and said they would pay “a price they won’t like if they push Turkey.”
Cengiz Çandar -- a veteran journalist who suffered greatly during the 1997 coup d’état after newspapers, under orders from the coup generals, manufactured false news stories about him, claiming that he was being paid by the terrorist PKK -- alleged that both the US and Israel supported the coup. “The US did not support a direct intervention, but supported the [1997 coup],” Çandar said. The 1997 coup was an unarmed intervention that forced the government to resign after the National Security Council (MGK), dominated by the military, issued a series of threats. Çandar said he was an eyewitness to US involvement in the 1997 coup.
The majority of Turks, including a significant portion of Republican People’s Party (CHP) supporters, believe Turkey needs a new political party that embraces the left-wing as well as the social democratic values the CHP claims to represent, the results of a survey revealed.
The Şanlıurfa City Council decided to provide TL 70,000 to the Alevi Cultural Association’s Şanlıurfa branch for the construction of a building that will house both a cemevi, an Alevi place of worship, and a community center.
Nine more suspects who testified to prosecutors on Sunday as part of a probe of the 1997 postmodern coup, including retired Gen. Çevik Bir, were arrested. Some public figures argued that the investigation should be limited to the military as others pointed out the potential benefits of the trial.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül reiterated his call for a change to Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Internal Service Code, which has provided grounds and incentive for the military to intervene in politics.
April 17, Tuesday
Teams from the İstanbul Police Department found 15 kilograms of explosives, suspected to have been buried by the terrorist PKK, in a cemetery in İstanbul.
As an investigation into the 1997 coup is still under way, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the actors behind the coup were responsible for his imprisonment in 1999, after reciting a poem during a party rally. “I was jailed on their orders. Otherwise, how could a mayor be jailed for a poem that has been approved by the [Education Ministry’s] Board of Education and Discipline? This happened because of orders coming from [the military],” Erdoğan said during Tuesday’s Parliamentary group meeting. In 1999, Prime Minister Erdoğan served four months in jail after being convicted of Islamist sedition for reading a poem at a political rally in Siirt when he was the mayor of İstanbul.
A detention warrant was issued for former national police chief and politician Mehmet Ağar one day after his conviction in the Susurluk case was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals. The former police chief was sentenced with five years in jail for establishing a criminal organization in a trial concerning a car accident in 1996 that exposed links between the Turkish state, the criminal underworld and Turkish security forces, commonly referred to as the Susurluk scandal.
The Family and Social Policy Ministry’s report on the status of women revealed little except that women in Turkey are shut out from leadership positions just like other women around the world. According to the ministry’s “Status of Women in Turkey April 2012 Report,” some occupations have shown limited gains towards gender equality. Professional associations state that 39 percent of architects, 38 percent of lawyers and 50 percent of bankers are women. In academia, 40.9 percent of professors, associate professors, research assistants and lecturers are women.
April 18, Wednesday
Following an investigation into the use of racist slogans and banners at a rally in İstanbul in February, marking the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre, the İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office questioned nine people.
High-ranking military officers who are standing trial for negligence in the case of a deadly terrorist PKK attack in Diyarbakır’s Silvan district, which claimed the lives of 13 soldiers last year, directed heavy accusations at Brig. Gen. Ünal Karaosmanoğlu, the commander of the Diyarbakır Regional Gendarmerie Command, who they said left the soldiers at the mercy of the terrorist organization.
The second indictment prepared by Specially Authorized Prosecutor İsmail Tandoğan, filed as part of an investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella group that encompasses the terrorist PKK, was accepted by the İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court. The 892-page indictment accuses PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers of maintaining communication between Öcalan and senior PKK officials in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where many PKK hideouts are located.
April 19, Thursday
A Turkish proposal to establish a broadcasting watchdog agency among 57 Muslim countries was officially approved at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Gabon’s capital, Libreville. The decision empowers the OIC with new tools to promote broadcasting a positive image of the Muslim world on member countries’ television channels.
The court hearing a case involving an alleged coup plot dubbed “Sledgehammer” filed criminal complaints against defense lawyers who refused to attend hearings to protest the court’s decisions. Judge Murat Üründü announced that the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court had filed criminal complaints against the lawyers at the Silivri Public Prosecutor’s Office on the grounds that they failed to attend court hearings without providing a reason.
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek and representatives from three opposition parties met on Thursday to discuss the issue of jailed deputies. The party representatives refrained from commenting after the meeting, telling reporters they should ask questions of Çiçek, who invited them to meet. In a brief statement to the press, Çiçek said he and the group of deputies from opposition parties will convene again after April 23. A statement released by the Parliament Speaker’s Office after the meeting said: “The issue of the jailed deputies was discussed at the meeting from a legal perspective. The deputy chairmen of the political parties expressed their views on the issue. The deputy group chairmen of the parties now need to discuss the issue with their parties. A meeting will be arranged after April 23 to continue the discussions.”
April 20, Friday
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Van deputy Özdal Üçer attacked Van Teaching and Research Hospital doctor Oğuz Eroğlu amidst protests against attacks on healthcare personnel after the murder of a cardiothoracic surgeon in the southeastern province of Gaziantep this week.
The results of the Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS) announced came as a shock to many, as they revealed a roughly 360 percent rise in the number of students who scored zero in the exam over the past two years, prompting educators to highlight long-standing shortcomings in the Turkish education system.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani’s two-day talks in İstanbul and Ankara appear to have focused on tensions brewing between Iraq’s Shiite-led government and minority Sunnis and Kurds, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has described as “ominous.” The PKK should lay down its weapons for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, Barzani said. “You won’t get anywhere with weapons. The PKK should lay down its arms,” Barzani told reporters in Ankara on Friday on the last day of his two-day visit to Turkey. “I will not let the PKK prevail in northern Iraq,” he said.
Sixteen people were taken to the Beşiktaş Courthouse in connection with the discovery of explosives in an İstanbul cemetery on Tuesday.