Former Army Chief Karadayı, ex-minister testify to commission

A parliamentary commission set up to investigate past coups in Turkey heard the testimony »»

A parliamentary commission set up to investigate past coups in Turkey heard the testimony of former Chief of General Staff Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı and former Interior Minister Meral Akşener on Monday regarding the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup.

Akşener arrived at the parliamentary office in Dolmabahçe Palace earlier in the day to speak before the commission about her recollections from the coup period. She left the palace without responding to reporters’ questions. Karadayı arrived later in the day and also declined to answer questions.

İdris Şahin, the spokesperson for the commission, spoke to reporters on Monday evening and said the commission heard “good things” from both Karadayı and Akşener about the tradition of coups in Turkey. “Both of them expressed clearly that Turkey should not witness another coup d’état. They were sincere. They said no one would dare to stage a coup if democracy is further improved in Turkey,” he said.

On Feb. 28, 1997, the Turkish military forced the coalition government, led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP), out of power, citing allegedly rising religious fundamentalism in the country. The Feb. 28 coup introduced a series of severe restrictions on religious life, including an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of headscarves by women.

The military was also purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups or officers who were simply observant Muslims. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down based on a National Security Council (MGK) decision calling for closer monitoring of media outlets.

There is an ongoing investigation into the suspected actors behind the coup, with approximately 60 individuals already arrested on coup charges.

In response to a question over whether Karadayı defined Feb. 28, 1997 as a coup during his testimony, Şahin said: “He [Karadayı] was on active duty during that period, and he does not define Feb. 28 as a coup. But he said he is against any interventions in democracy. He said the duty to shape politics belongs to politicians and that members of the military should not be dragged into politics.”

Commenting on Akşener’s recollections of the Feb. 28 period, Şahin said the former minister told the commission that the government at the time faced pressure to relinquish its power. In her earlier testimony to a public prosecutor investigating the coup, Akşener said she had been threatened by a general in the run-up to the Feb. 28 period who reportedly told her that she would be “impaled” in front of the Interior Ministry if the military came to power.

According to various news reports on Tuesday, Karadayı told commission members that several military tanks that rolled through Sincan in Ankara on Feb. 4, 1997 were not aimed at threatening or warning the government. “[It] was part of a routine military exercise. It had nothing to do with Feb. 28. The tanks were on their way to a military exercise in Etimesgut [a district in Ankara] as part of a NATO drill,” the retired military chief was quoted as saying.

When asked to comment on the earlier remarks of retired Gen. Çevik Bir -- one of the major actors of the Feb. 28 coup who is currently under arrest -- that the military “made a balance check for democracy” on the day of the coup, Kabadayı reportedly said, “There were big-mouthed people in the military, as there are in other institutions,” in reference to Bir. The former military chief also called those who define the Feb. 28 event as a postmodern coup “dummies.”



Columnist: TODAY'S ZAMAN