The prime minister's call for a quick wrap-up of the investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military coup cannot be called a government attempt at intervention into judicial matters, according to a senior member of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
At a news conference held at the AK Party headquarters on Wednesday, AK Party Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik said: “All those responsible for the coup, including the masterminds, should give an account [to the judiciary]; however, it is not right for Turkey to wake up every morning to a new wave of arrests [in the probe]. We are drawing attention to the sensitivity of the issue. Prosecutors will not perceive the statements [by the prime minister for a quick conclusion of the probe] as an intervention in the judiciary.” In a statement on Tuesday, Turkey's prime minister called on judicial authorities to conclude the 1997 coup probe as soon as possible.
Erdoğan said the consecutive waves of arrests in the ongoing coup probe disturb both the public and his government.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday night, after returning from a visit to Italy, Erdoğan commented on the ongoing coup investigation following the fourth wave of arrests earlier in the day. Detention warrants were issued for 17 active duty and retired military officers as well as one civilian on Tuesday.
“There is an ongoing process regarding the Feb. 28 probe but things like the first wave, the second wave, the third wave and the forth wave in fact disturb the public. We are also significantly disturbed by this. The necessary steps should be taken and that should be it, but when the waves [of arrests] follow one after another, pardon me, but the country will suffocate. I think this business should not be extended much longer,” Erdoğan said.
When asked whether he has any plans to apply for a co-plaintiff position if the Feb. 28 investigation turns into a court case, Erdoğan said he will decide on the issue when the trial process begins.
“It would be wrong for me to say something at his point,” he said.
A total of 39 people were arrested in the first three operations of the Feb. 28 investigation last month. The suspects are all accused of playing a major role in the 1997 coup, when the military forced a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party, the Welfare Party (RP), out of power on the grounds that there was rising religious fundamentalism in the country.
Those sent to jail include retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the 1997 coup, and retired Gen. Erol Özkasnak, the secretary-general of the General Staff at the time. Özkasnak is known to have played a major role in the coup generals’ communication with the media in order to put pressure on the government to resign.
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.