When asked about the second wave of detentions in the ongoing investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 military coup on Thursday, Erdoğan said: “Everyone knows and sees that coups are being investigated in Turkey today. The promises made in the Sept. 12  referendum are being kept. Those who were skeptical about what we said as we were campaigning for the referendum and who claimed that our promises would remain unfulfilled, must now understand the justness of the 58 percent who said ‘yes' in the referendum. My wish is for the rapid serving of justice in these cases.”
The government-sponsored 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 that it was a lie that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government would bring the perpetrators of coups to trial.
Two surviving leaders of the brutal Sept.12, 1980 military coup were put on trial earlier this month, while prosecutors are still investigating the actors of the Feb. 28 unarmed military intervention, in which the military forced a coalition government led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP) to resign on the grounds that there was rising religious fundamentalism in the country. “Feb. 28” refers to the National Security Council (MGK) meeting held on this date in 1997 when the military issued a memorandum against the government.
In Thursday's second wave of detentions in the Feb. 28 investigation, all of the 12 active-duty and retired military officers for whom Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor's Office issued warrants were detained and taken to Ankara, where they will be interrogated by prosecutors as part of a probe into the Feb. 28 military intervention.
Police raided 12 addresses in seven provinces, including Adana, Afyonkarahisar, Ankara, Eskişehir, İstanbul, İzmir and Muğla on Thursday. The detainees include four active-duty military officers and eight retired military officers including Gen. Erol Özkasnak, who played a major role in the Feb. 28, 1997 events.
Özkasnak was the secretary-general of the General Staff at the time and is known to have played a major role in the coup generals' manipulation of the media to put pressure on the government to resign.
The other detainees are Col. Mustafa İhsan Tavazar in Adana; Col. Veli Seyit in Eskişehir; Staff Col. Seyfullah Sönmez in Afyankarahisar; retired colonels Yaşar Bülent Aksaray and İbrahim Reşit Çağın in İstanbul; retired Lt. Col. Güneş Kıral in İstanbul; colonels Ahmet Dağcı, Mustafa Hakan Bural and Bahaddin Çelik in Ankara; and retired Col. Osman Bülbül in İzmir. They were taken to Ankara and were being interrogated by prosecutors on Friday.
Thursday's operation was the second wave of the Feb. 28 investigation, following a first wave last week, when Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor's Office issued arrest warrants for 31 people, including retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is also known to have played a major role in the 1997 coup. The suspects were questioned by prosecutors and 18 of them, including Gen. Bir, were jailed.
In the meantime, during his interrogation by prosecutors, Bir sought to justify the military's meddling in politics in 1997 by pointing to Article 35 of Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Internal Service Code.
“The duty of the TSK is to protect and watch over the Turkish motherland and the Turkish Republic as delineated by the Constitution,” reads the article. Though the article does not contain a clear provision facilitating military coups, it has several times been used to legitimize coups.
Former president and retired Gen. Kenan Evren, who was put on trial earlier this month for his role in the bloody Sept. 12 coup, also referred to the same article in his defense to justify his anti-democratic action.
Ankara Specially Authorized Prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili, who oversees the probe, asked Bir what kind of activities he was involved in following the West Operation Concept, which states, “The TSK will use all its strength to prevent religious fundamentalism from rising.” Bir replied, “In accordance with the authority granted to the TSK by the Article 35 of the TSK Internal Service Code, it was noted in the article that the TSK will give priority to using its power to prevent reactionaryism that is a long-term domestic threat.”