Former Minister Güneş Taner, who was responsible for the Treasury in the coalition government that replaced the government overthrown by the 1997 coup, recently spoke to Parliament's Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission, which is working to shed light on the Feb. 28, 1997 coup.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) issued a memorandum on Feb. 28, 1997, strongly criticizing the government led by a now-defunct conservative party, the Welfare Party (RP), and claimed that the government had failed to take the necessary measures to fight what the army called “reactionaryism.” The National Security Council (MGK) made several decisions during a meeting on Feb. 28 and presented them to the then-Prime Minister and RP leader Necmettin Erbakan for approval. Erbakan was forced to sign the decisions. He subsequently resigned.
According to Taner's statements, the Ülker Group applied to the Treasury in 1998 to be granted state incentives but failed to receive any. The head of the incentives department told Taner that a colonel from the General Staff had called and warned him not to grant any incentives to Ülker. Following this, Taner called Gen. Bir to ask him about the colonel's warning. “My brother, these are reactionaries,” Bir allegedly told Taner.
“Güneş, they are such people. They have a basketball team, Ülker. They have matches on TV but none of their players have Turkish flags in their hands,” Bir further said.
Following this Taner called Ülker about the issue and for Ülker's next basketball match, all the players were given Turkish flags to hold and this was recorded. The video was subsequently sent to Bir.
Taner said he later called Bir and asked him if he had watched the video. According to Taner, Bir said he watched it but he was disturbed by the absence of any Atatürk posters in the match.
According to Radikal, Taner voiced his frustration over Bir's reaction and told him that no military official should call the Treasury to say such things.
Taner said he later approved incentives for Ülker despite opposition from Bir.
Gen. Bir is currently jailed in a prison in Ankara as part of a probe into the Feb. 28 coup.