With the detention of high-profile generals continuing as part of the trial of those involved in the Feb. 28 coup, an unarmed military intervention that toppled the democratically elected government in 1997, discussions have flared about those who played key roles in the incident.
The landmark Feb. 28 trial indicates the unending ebbing of the military’s power and dismantling of the foundations that have allowed the military to meddle in politics. An Ankara court decided last week that former deputy Chief of Staff Çevik Bir and other officers should be held under pre-trial detention to eliminate any risk of them fleeing.
Deputy Chief of Staff Çevik Bir was one of the key figures in that period and appeared at the forefront of the military’s interference in politics, which was aimed at forcing the Islamist Welfare Party (RP) to resign. The former officers face charges of plotting to remove an elected government and preventing it from fulfilling its duties.
It is significant to revisit and reconsider who the major actors are that played key roles in the Feb. 28 period. Without a doubt, beyond military and military officials there were also civilian actors who endorsed and eased the military intervention in politics, excluding some segments of society from the political and public sphere in order to secure the secular establishment’s position within the political system.
İsmail Hakkı Karadayı: He was chief of general staff at the time. It was mentioned that he gave a hard time to Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan in the National Security Council (MGK). It was also claimed that he collaborated with President Süleyman Demirel and avoided the military coup planned by Deputy Chief of General Staff Çevik Bir. He retired due to his age on Aug. 30, 1998. It was asserted that by putting pressure on Erkan Mumcu, the head of the Motherland Party (ANAP), not to vote in Parliament, he obstructed the democratic process in the 2007 presidential elections. He claimed that voice recordings of him posted online which included confessions about the Feb. 28 process were fabricated. He was a member of Encümen-i Daniş (The Consultation Council).
Çevik Bir: He was the founder of the West Study Group (BÇG) and the pioneer of the changes forced on democracy during the Feb. 28 coup. He attempted to be the Kenan Evren -- the organizer of the Sept. 12 military coup -- of the postmodern coup. Firstly, his expectation to become chief of general staff and then his dream of becoming the president of Turkey came to naught. He retired in 1999. His phone was tapped as part of the Balyoz Indictment, due to what he said about Çetin Doğan. He testified to prosecutors as part of the Ergenekon investigation. He was the first one to be detained by the police as part of the Feb. 28 postmodern coup investigation.
Erol Özkasnak: He was general secretary of the General Staff at the time. He was the spokesman for the Feb. 28 coup. It was alleged that he was in charge of telling columnists what to write and threatening those who didn’t comply. As one of the most prominent names of the period, he expected promotion, but he had already completed his mission and was therefore made to retire. It was surprising that he wasn’t included on the first list of those to be detained. Since he was definitely expected to be on the list, many online news portals announced that he was taken into custody, but this mistake was later corrected.
Güven Erkaya: He was the commander of the Naval Forces. It was leaked to the newspapers that he pushed Erbakan too far at the National Security Council on account of a then widespread thesis about “the extent of the reactionary threat and the ignorance of the government on the issue.” It then became clear that the Directorate of Naval Forces was the military quarter within which the Directorate of General Staff carried out the task of fighting the reactionary movement. The core of the junta was the West Working Group, headed by Adm. Erkaya, who died of colon cancer two years ago.
İdris Koralp: He is a retired major general. He worked with the former general secretary of the National Security Council, retired Gen. Tunç Kılınç, who was released after having been detained as part of the Ergenekon Case. When Kılınç was commander of the Third Army, Koralp became head of the Operational Assistantship Department. At the time of the Feb. 28 coup he was serving with the First Armored Division in Hadımköy district. He was among the first group detained.
Abdullah Kılıçaslan: He is a retired brigadier general. He was deputy commander of the Special Forces in the period when Turkish soldiers had a hood thrown over their heads at Süleymaniye. In the latest general elections he stood as a candidate to become an MHP deputy. He was in charge of the Special Forces Commandership in the course of the Feb. 28 coup. Police detained him during the investigation.
Ünal Akbulut: He is a retired brigadier general. He was in charge of the army as staff colonel at the time of the Feb. 28 coup. He then worked in the Military Quarter as head of the General Staff Personnel Department. He was detained by the police.
Oğuz Kalelioğlu: He is a retired captain. He was serving at the Psychological Warfare Department at the time of Feb. 28 coup. He worked as counselor at the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DİB). He was detained by the police.
Hüsnü Dağ: He is a retired captain. In the course of the Feb. 28 Coup he was the head of the General Staff Press and Public Relations Department, which is currently called the Directorate of General Staff Communication Department. He was detained by the police.
Mustafa Babacan: He was working as Hüsnü Dağ’s assistant. He was department chief of the Board of Inspection and Survey at the time of the Feb. 28 Coup. The police detained him.
Necdet Batıran: He is a retired Sergeant Major. At the time of the Feb. 28 coup he was working as records-keeper in the military facility called the “cosmic room.” He was detained.
Kemal Gürüz: Gürüz was head of the Higher Education Board (YÖK) at the time. He ensured decisions made by the National Security Council were implemented in universities. He changed the university entrance system, which upset students, and he implemented a strict headscarf ban at universities. The new system made it almost impossible for the graduates of imam-hatip high schools (religious vocational high schools) and other vocational high schools to attend universities. He is a self-described supporter of Americanism and asserts that the Feb. 28 intervention was not a coup. He was detained by police on Jan. 7, 2009, within the scope of the Ergenekon investigation. He is still a member of the International Consultative Council of Kadir Has University.
Kemal Alemdaroğlu: Alemdaroğlu was a controversial rector of İstanbul University at the time of the coup. His constraints on freedom of education and human rights knew no bounds. The discipline committee of the Turkish Medical Association removed him from his position of rector after claims surfaced he had committed plagiarism. Alemdaroğlu, along with two of his colleagues at İstanbul University, wrote a book about laparoscopic surgery in 1995. However, according to Virginia University, Alemdaroğlu had plagiarized a study conducted at Virginia University in a chapter of his book entitled “Laparoscopic colectomy.” The chapter copied many parts of a 1992 study called “New Developments in Laparoscopy” by Dr. Philippe Jean Quilici of the St. Joseph Medical Center in California. He was detained in connection with the Ergenekon investigation on March 21, 2008 and released two days later pending trial.
Nur Serter: Serter established the “persuasion rooms” of universities, where female students were pressured to remove their headscarves. Her book “Siyasal İslam’da Din Tekeli” (The Monopoly of Religion within Political Islam) was offered as evidence in the process that led to the closure of the RP. She frequently attended Republican rallies organized against the government in 2007. She is currently a Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Nuh Mete Yüksel: Yüksel served as a prosecutor for the State Security Court (DGM) at the time. He conducted some of the most-discussed investigations in Turkey. He is commonly known in Ankara by the nickname “Iron Prosecutor.” Yüksel raided the home of Turkey’s first headscarf-wearing deputy, Merve Kavakçı, during the middle of the night of October 18, 1999. Citing as evidence controversial and defamatory news published against the Gülen movement by the Aydınlık daily, known for its strong anti-religious stance, he filed terrorism charges against Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Yüksel also launched a defamation campaign against Gülen, sharing the indictment with the media before submitting it to court. A police search of the Contemporary Education Foundation (ÇEV) in 2002 led to the discovery of CDs showing Yüksel sleeping with several women, suggesting he had been blackmailed to file the indictment against Gülen. Yüksel received a minor punishment from the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) following the discovery of the CDs. He retired a few months ago and maintains that the military did not influence the judiciary during the Feb. 28 period.
Vural Savaş: Savaş was the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals at the time. He paved the way for the closure of two parties, the RP and the Virtue Party (FP), and for the postmodern coup. His use of the words “bloodsucking vampires” to describe religious people in his closure indictment was regarded as a legal scandal. After he retired, he did not have any opportunities left to him. He was not successful in either politics or civil society. Nowadays, he occupies his time writing a book from his house in Ankara.
Süleyman Demirel: The most prominent name in the Feb. 28 coup. After Erbakan’s resignation, he assigned Mesut Yılmaz instead of Tansu Çiller as prime minister. He always considered himself as “the key man who contributed to break the deadlock in the Turkish political landscape.” His formula “5 + 5,” which was put forward to enable Demirel to move on as the president of the Turkish Republic, wasn’t enacted. When his dream of remaining as the president came to naught, he took a back seat and was regarded as a veteran. He didn’t turn his back on active politics, but continued carrying out “political engineering.” Recently, he has been taking care of his health problems and his wife Mrs. Nazmiye, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Mesut Yılmaz: He became prime minister in the Feb. 28 coup period. He was a dauntless supporter of eight years of continuous education. Although his expectations were met in the short run, his party’s failure to reach the vote threshold with a 5 percent vote ratio on Nov. 3, 2002 disappointed him. On the grounds of the fact that “they, Mesut Yılmaz and Güneş Taner, were involved in contacts and meetings that resulted in depravity in terms of the value and the sale of the product within the process of the tender offer for Türkbank,” he was judged in the Supreme Court. While he was thought to have left the political sphere, he became an independent candidate for Rize in the 2007 elections. He transferred to the Democrat Party (DP) in 2009. After Namık Kemal Zeybek was elected as the head of the party, he resigned.
Tansu Çiller: She worked as foreign affairs minister and deputy prime minister in the 54th government, established by a coalition between the Welfare Party and True Path Party (DYP). In the aftermath of the intervention in her party, she lost her chance to become prime minister. Then deputies started to resign from the DYP-founded Democratic Society Party (DTP). After DYP didn’t reach the voting threshold in the general elections held on Nov. 3, 2002, she bowed out as general president of the party. Mehmet Ağar replaced her. She rarely appears in public and was last was noticed by the media at the funeral of Tenzile Erdoğan, Erdoğan’s mother.
Hikmet Uluğbay: He was minister of the Board of National Education. He was charged with carrying out the decisions of the MGK. Two years after the Feb. 28 coup he attempted suicide with his registered gun. His tongue was destroyed, but he survived. Now he spends the winter at his home in Ankara and goes to Bodrum in the summer.
Necmettin Erbakan: He was one of the targets of the postmodern coup. The 54th government, in which he served as prime minister while it was being oppressed by the army and the media, was overturned. The Welfare Party, which he led, was closed by the constitutional court and he was banned from politics. He was sentenced to imprisonment for two years and four months in the “lost trillion case”; however, he was pardoned by President Abdullah Gül. He passed away last year, one day before the anniversary of Feb. 28. He was criticized on the account of the fact that he didn’t stand firmly enough against the Feb. 28 Coup.
Dinç Bilgin: His group was one of the two groups that were effective then. He owned the Sabah daily and the ATV television network. However, he was obliged to dispose of the daily due to the economic crisis in 2001. With regards to the Feb. 28 period, he confessed: “We made major mistakes. We published false news stories.” He was accused of channeling bank funds to his other companies through his Etibank and was sentenced to four-years-and-ten-months in prison and made to pay a fine of TL 129 million.
Aydın Doğan: He is the boss of the Doğan Media Group who used the headlines of the newspapers he published then to set the agenda and mold public opinion. Then Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Ertuğrul Özkök’s interviews with top military officials were proclaimed in the headlines. The disclosure that Doğan was included in the investigation into Feb. 28 caused the market value of the five companies of the Doğan Group to depreciate by TL 519.3 million in a day.
Seyhan Soylu: The transsexual Seyhan Soylu, who is also known as Sisi, is the secret hero of Feb. 28! She attained prominence due to the “Ali Kalkancı-Fadime Şahin affair,” which was crucial to the Feb. 28 process. Then-Justice Minister Şevket Kazan claimed that Sisi was trained by JİTEM (an illegal unit formed inside the gendarmerie).
Fadime Şahin: She was a prominent figure in the process that led to the Feb. 28 coup when she was caught with Müslüm Gündüz, leader of the Aczmendi sect, in a sleazy situation by reporters; then it became known that at the same time she had a similar affair with another phony religious figure -- Ali Kalkancı. A series of claims about her followed: She had plastic surgery, she took refuge in a foreign country, and she was an anonymous witness in the Ergenekon case. Last year, Şahin was working in a factory in İstanbul.
Ali Kalkancı: He became famous as the “fake sheikh.” Although he had no knowledge of religion, he had many religious followers(!). His deviant affairs were unveiled, and in 2009 he was busted for running a chemical factory in which 2 million captagon pills (narcotic drugs) were found. He’s also known as a business partner of Zekeriye Öztürk, a suspect in the Ergenekon case, who he referred to as “our hodja” in a phone call included in the indictment. He successfully played a fake sheikh in the play staged in the process that resulted in the Feb. 28 coup. He is still in prison due to his narcotics bust.
Müslüm Gündüz: He became renowned as the leader of the Aczmendi sect due to his speeches on TV in the 1990s. He and 22-year-old student Fadime Şahin were caught in bed together in a house in Kadıköy, İstanbul. He claimed that they had an “imam marriage.” Last year he appeared on a television program and asserted that his role in the Feb. 28 coup wasn’t part of a psychological operation. He won a lawsuit against Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights ECtHR). The court considered his application as fair, as there are also military officials within the DGM.