State watchdog: Özal's death suspicious, remains should be exhumed

Former President Turgut Özal (Photo: Today's Zaman)

June 13, 2012, Wednesday/ 12:07:00

A report by the investigative body of Turkey's presidential palace has found the 1993 death of then-President Turgut Özal to be “suspicious,” calling on prosecutors to investigate the case.

The report by the State Audit Institution (DDK), which is under the direct supervision of President Abdullah Gül, said on Wednesday there has been no satisfactory investigation into allegations by several family members and lawmakers that the death of Özal, who was Turkey's eighth president, might have been the result of poisoning.

The report suggested exhuming his remains, conducting an autopsy and running a hair sample test to shed light on the allegations. Doctors at the time said Özal, who underwent a triple bypass surgery in 1987, died of heart failure.

The DDK launched an inquiry into the former president's death on Oct. 1, 2010 on the order of President Gül in March of that year and announced the findings of its report on Wednesday. The report states the late president's death was sudden as he was not suffering from any chronic disease.

“The sudden death of any president on duty is a suspicious one,” the report adds, noting that the fact that no autopsy was performed after his death was an “eclipse of reason.” The report notes that every single allegation brought forth by Özal’s relatives was taken into account during the investigation.

The report points to major flaws in the handling of the president’s health condition. It said that it could neither be explained nor accepted that there were no paramedics or ambulances on the palace grounds, noting that there were serious problems with regard to the quality of health services offered to the president. It pointed to a large number of other problems, such as the lack of security measures along the road as Özal was being taken to the hospital. His medical records and the list of medications he was on were also not available to present to medical professionals. “Özal’s cause of death remains unknown to this day,” the report said.

Shortly after the DDK’s report was made public on Wednesday, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı said the allegations put forth in the report should be investigated. “Turgut Özal was our eighth president. He has a very important place in our political history and state administration. His death has always been controversial,” he said, adding that although he did not know about the technical details included in the report, if there was any evidence that might support allegations regarding Özal’s death, they should be brought to light. “What matters here is for Turkey to dispel the doubts. I hope everything will come to light,” he stated.

Yaşar Okuyan, a former minister who spoke to journalists while attending the funeral of former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz’s mother on Wednesday, said he agreed that any doubts should be investigated, but noted that he did not believe Özal’s death was the result of a conspiracy. “The non-availability of an ambulance, negligence on the part of the people around him and the failure to conduct an autopsy are important points and should be investigated, but I don’t find the allegations that he was killed as part of a plot very convincing,” he said.

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