Coup leaders before judiciary for the first time in Turkey

Protesters left portraits of people who disappeared or were executed during the 1980 coup in a demonstration in front of the courthouse where the 1980 coup trial is taking place. (PHOTOSUNDAY’S ZAMAN, Ali Ünal)

April 08, 2012, Sunday/ 13:05:00

In what was unimaginable a few years ago, retired general and former President Kenan Evren and former commander of the Air Forces retired Gen. Tahsin Şahinkaya  - - the two surviving leaders of the bloody Sept. 12, 1980 coup - - went on trial on Wednesday for leading the brutal takeover that shaped the country into what it is today and traumatized the nation for three decades.

More than 30 years after the Sept. 12 military takeover, the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court began hearing the case against 94-year-old Evren, who went on to serve for seven years as president, as well as the other surviving coup architect, Şahinkaya, 86.

Fifty people were executed and half a million arrested, while hundreds died in jail and many more disappeared in the three years of military rule that followed the coup, Turkey’s third in 20 years. The case has some 500 co-plaintiffs, including representatives of eight political parties and Parliament. Sixty co-plaintiff lawyers and three defense lawyers attended the first hearing.

The trial of the coup leaders was made possible by a government-sponsored reform package that was approved in a referendum in 2010. Among other things, the reform package annulled a constitutional article that served as a legal shield for the coup leaders. During the campaign for the referendum, both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) called on the public to say “no” to the reforms, claiming it was a lie that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government would bring the perpetrators of the Sept. 12 coup to justice. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan commented on the start of the coup trial on Wednesday at an AK Party meeting and criticized the opposition for seeking co-plaintiff status in the case since they had called for a “no” vote ahead of the referendum.

“Those who unanimously opposed us ahead of the Sept. 12 public vote, who insulted us and accused us of lying, all swallowed what they said. They are now lining the courtroom,” Erdoğan said.


March 31, Saturday

Alevi homes in the eastern province of Erzincan were defaced with red marks following a similar act targeting Alevis in Turkey’s Adıyaman, Gaziantep and İzmir provinces.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his government is committed to overcoming obstacles to Turkey’s democratization and prosperity bid created by certain groups that he called “intriguers.” The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader was speaking during the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON) general council meeting on Saturday in İstanbul. “We have fought against the coup plotters, mafia and various gangs with the support of the Turkish people behind us so far and we will continue this righteous fight so long as our citizens want us to do so,” Erdoğan asserted in his address to thousands of businesspeople at the summit.

April 1, Sunday

A court has upheld the decision of a prosecutor to reject a complaint filed by a man, Duman Bal, who claims he lost his job and endured torture after being arrested in connection with the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’état. The court used the grounds that too much time has passed, but the decision comes just days before two of the surviving generals who led the coup d’état will appear before a court in Ankara.

Around 1,837,000 young people attended a two-hour-long Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS). The exam was conducted at 98,693 exam centers at schools across Turkey as well as in Lefkoşa, the capital of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC).

April 2, Monday

Fatma Neslişah Osmanoğlu, or Neslişah Sultan, the eldest member of the Ottoman royal family, passed away in İstanbul at the age of 91.

The head of a parliamentary subcommittee investigating an airstrike that occurred in late December of last year and killed 35 civilians has complained that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Ministry of Justice are dragging their feet when it comes to sending documents the commission has requested in connection with the investigation.

A much-criticized, long-standing General Staff practice -- refusing to give accreditation to some TV stations and newspapers, including Today’s Zaman and Zaman -- was lifted. The General Staff has long imposed a media accreditation ban on a number of TV stations and newspapers, including Today’s Zaman and Zaman, the highest circulation newspapers in both English and Turkish in the country, since the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention, known as the postmodern coup.

A document found on 15 terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members, all women, who were killed in an operation in the southeastern province of Bitlis on March 24, shows that the PKK was preparing 15 separate terrorist attacks.

Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç has warned the government and legislators against “creating new victims” when adopting laws that seek to reform the country’s sluggish judiciary. Kılıç, who gave the opening speech at the International Judicial Reform Symposium, said reforms should not be carried out due to vengeful feelings. “Feelings of revenge from the past should not be a motivation when carrying out reforms,” Kılıç said, warning legislators against acting politically or ideologically.

Official data showed that Turkey’s economy expanded by 8.5 percent last year at fixed prices, on top of the 8.9 percent recorded a year earlier, becoming the fastest growing economy in all of Europe and within the larger Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which includes the US, Japan, Canada and South Korea among other non-European nations.

April 3, Tuesday

The İstanbul Simit Tradesmen’s Chamber has launched a process to get an international patent for the number one Turkish street food, the simit, a ring of chewy bread coated with toasted sesame seeds.

An İzmir court began hearing a case against 130 suspects which include İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu and many other municipal officials who are accused of corruption. The trial began at the İzmir 8th High Criminal Court with the attendance of 24 of the 130 suspects who are currently under arrest. Kocaoğlu and 102 of the 106 suspects who are standing trial without arrest were also present at the first hearing. In January the court accepted an indictment that seeks 397 years in prison for Kocaoğlu on 33 corruption-related charges.

Syrian terrorist Fehman Hussein, who goes by the codename Bahoz, has returned to a PKK camp in northern Iraq after receiving medical treatment in Syria. Bahoz, a commander of the People’s Defense Forces (HPG), a wing of the PKK, was seriously wounded in operations carried out by gendarmerie special forces in Turkey’s Southeast last month. He returned to the Metina PKK camp after recovering.

As part of the civilianization of the gendarmerie in accordance with EU regulations and norms, new uniforms have been prepared for 300,000 gendarmes across the country, with French gendarmerie uniforms used as a model. With a new bill that will be submitted to Parliament next week, the government aims to civilianize the gendarmerie by restructuring it and by placing the Gendarmerie General Command under the authority of the Interior Ministry in all areas.

An İstanbul court accepted an indictment in which publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanlı face lengthy prison terms on charges of leading and aiding a terrorist organization. The 2,400-page indictment filed last month as part of an investigation into the terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) seeks between 15 and 22.5 years in jail for Ersanlı, who is accused of holding a senior position in the KCK.

April 4, Wednesday

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated that a recent focus on the venue for nuclear talks between Iran and the West is taking away from the real issues, which are the content and the results of the talks themselves. During a joint press appearance with his Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders, Davutoğlu said what Turkey places great emphasis on is that a permanent solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis emerges from this meeting, in line with the principles of nuclear security and acceptable to all parties in the talks. “We anticipate that the talks will be based on two principles; first, not coming out against the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; and second, controlling and preventing any kind of use of nuclear energy for military aims,” the Turkish foreign minister said. His comments come amid news that Iran has been seeking an alternative venue to host the nuclear talks, such as Damascus, Iraq or China.

One of the witnesses quoted in a recent indictment into the suspects of the terrorist KCK, accepted by the 15th İstanbul High Criminal Court, is a former lawyer of the terrorist PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. İrfan Dündar, an employee of Öcalan, who is currently jailed on a prison island in the Marmara Sea, is one of the witnesses testifying against the KCK, an umbrella network that encompasses the PKK and other affiliated groups. The indictment accuses publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanlı of leading and aiding a terrorist organization.

April 5, Thursday

A court ordered the arrest of 15 Gaziantepspor officials, including the club’s chairman, on charges of fraud.

The two generals who staged a coup d’état on Sept. 12, 1980, are finally on trial, but many human rights groups and associations also hope that the trial will shed light on a number of deadly incidents that are now known to have been orchestrated by behind-the-scenes groups working to legitimize the coup.

İhsan Şener, chair of the subcommittee recently formed within the parliamentary Human Rights Inquiry Committee, said he is not satisfied with the report sent by the General Staff on December’s Uludere killings, in which 34 locals were killed in an airstrike near the Iraqi border by Turkish jets that mistook them for PKK terrorists.

Anna Maria Darmanin, vice president of communications for the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), called on journalists to step up and be the change they wish to see in the mainstream media’s representations of women. “I really wish to stress that the media has a key role in identifying women’s rights and educating the public on the role of women in society,” Darmanin said during a panel on the media’s role in the advancement of women’s rights, on the final day of the International Women and Media Symposium in Antalya.

Six historic graveyards were returned to İstanbul’s Jewish, Greek and Armenian communities on Thursday, following a decision by a government board that regulates the practices of the country’s non-Muslim communities.

Parliament passed a bill to amend the Law on Conditional Release, which governs the conditions of a prisoner’s release, meaning that roughly 15,000 prisoners currently held in open prisons with only a year left of their sentences will be released on probation.

April 6, Friday

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won a lawsuit he filed against journalist Merdan Yanardağ for slander. The Ankara 18th Civil Court ruled that Yanardağ must pay TL 5,000 to Erdoğan for his discourteous and slanderous remarks about the prime minister.

As groups representing various segments of society submit proposals to the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission in order to make a contribution to the drafting of a new constitution for Turkey, a nongovernmental organization, the Justice and Law Foundation (AHD), came up with its own roadmap, which includes the views of international scholars. The AHD has chosen to make a contribution to the drafting of the new constitution by preparing a booklet titled “Roadmap for the new constitution,” which includes the articles of four Turkish and 14 foreign professors and academics. The AHD suggests there should be no preamble in the new constitution. Other recommendations include the elimination of articles restricting freedom of religion, and the resolution of the headscarf problem using a pro-freedom approach.

A specially authorized prosecutor demanded that the İstanbul court hearing the Sledgehammer coup plot investigation file a complaint against a number of İstanbul Bar Association lawyers, claiming they attempted to influence court proceedings.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) submitted a petition to an İstanbul court for the annulment of the recent increase in natural gas and fuel prices.

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) could face a closure case at the Constitutional Court -- only three years after its predecessor, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), was shut down by the same high court -- after a prosecutor conducting an investigation into the terrorist KCK network accused the BDP of having links to the KCK.

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