Police raided dozens of premises in three provinces on Thursday as part of an investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 coup in which the Turkish military toppled a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party, the Welfare Party (RP).
Retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the 1997 coup, was detained along with other military figures of the time.
Journalist Mehmet Altan said he finds the investigation very important for Turkey from many aspects. “I think this probe is important for democratization but it came late. As a victim of Feb. 28, I know it in detail. Some media outlets and the judiciary supported the military [in staging a coup],” he said.
Back then, some newspapers ran a large number of stories warning of Islamic fundamentalism to prepare the ground for a military intervention, and some of those stories were cited as evidence by National Security Council (MGK) generals in a statement the council issued that led to the uprooting of the government.
Nazlı Ilıcak, a journalist and author, said Thursday’s police operations were not unexpected, adding that the Feb. 28 investigation may extend to former army chiefs İsmail Hakkı Karadayı and Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu.
“Feb. 28 is a coup attempt which took place in along the chain of command. It was not a full-fledged coup but one which aimed to overthrow the coalition government. They managed this. Since this coup attempt took place along the chain of command, higher-ranking military figures of the time could be investigated. That period saw two army chiefs. The investigation may extend to them, Karadayı and Kıvrıkoğlu. We don’t know what the result will be,” Ilıcak said.
Another comment came from Dinç Bilgin, a businessman who owned the Sabah daily at the time. The generals who instigated the coup relied heavily on the media for manufactured stories about a growing Islamist threat, and there was a lot of pressure on newspaper owners and editors at the time. “I see the new developments as a very positive step forward. The military at the time saw itself as the hegemon in the country. They saw themselves above all the country’s constitutional agencies.”
He said the media, as well as academia and the judiciary and other segments of society, were under great pressure from the military. Bilgin also noted that he would be happy to testify about what he knows about the Feb. 28 era to prosecutors or judges. Journalist Mahmut Övür said not only do the generals of the time need to be investigated for their role in the lead-up to the coup but then-President Süleyman Demirel, too.
Taha Akyol, a columnist from the Hürriyet daily, said the Feb. 28 investigation is conducted based on strong legal grounds and it will make a contribution to the supremacy of law and democracy in Turkey. Akyol also said the investigation should not extend to press members who played a role in the process.