Twenty-nine retired military officers, including retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, were detained on Thursday as police raided dozens of premises in three provinces as part of an investigation into the 1997 coup.
The intervention is often referred to as a “postmodern” coup d’etat due to the fact that as bloodless as it was, it was able to bring down a government. Turkey’s government was led by an Islamist-leaning party at the time. Most of the addresses searched are homes of former military officers who played a major role in the postmodern coup. Among the homes searched by police are the houses of retired Gen. Bir and retired generals Abdullah Kılıçarslan and İdris Koralp.
Reports said that on Thursday morning detention warrants were issued for 31 retired military officers, including Bir. The state-run Anatolia news agency said Bir was detained later in the day. Police are searching 31 premises in İstanbul, Ankara and Çanakkale.
Bir is best remembered for describing the intervention as a “fine tuning of Turkey’s democracy.” Police searched his house at the War Academies residential complex in İstanbul on Thursday. His “fine-tuning” comments came after army tanks rolled down the streets of Ankara’s Sincan province following the staging of a religious play by a Welfare Party (RP) mayor.
Politicians, civil society groups and opinion leaders on Thursday praised the ongoing investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 as an auspicious development in Turkey’s endeavor to confront its history of coups.
The ongoing investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 military takeover, together with the trial of two generals who executed the bloody Sept. 12, 1980 coup, will set an example for people who might think of initiating coups or military interventions into politics in the future, according to victims of the two coups.
April 7, Saturday
Twenty-two automobiles were set ablaze in the Pendik, Bahçelievler and Gaziosmanpaşa districts of İstanbul. It is thought that the perpetrators are likely to have been members of the terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that encompasses the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
April 8, Sunday
The Ankara 12th High Criminal Court, which is currently hearing the 1980 coup trial, asked the General Staff to send it the “warning letter” signed by Chief of General Staff Gen. Kenan Evren in 1979, but the General Staff said it could find no such document in its archives. The warning letter that the court requested was sent to President Fahri Korutürk on Dec. 27, 1979 by Gen. Evren. Korutürk, summoned the leaders of the two biggest political parties, Süleyman Demirel and Bülent Ecevit, to the presidential palace, where he delivered the memorandum to them.
The letter was accepted as evidence in the ongoing trial of the coup leaders as proof that the decision to stage a coup was made a year before the takeover. It is interesting that the letter could not be found by the General Staff, as it was even leaked to Turkish dailies at the time. The court decided to ask the Presidency for a certified copy of the letter.
The Constitutional Court on Sunday rejected the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) request to annul a law that was passed in Parliament in February to address the country’s long-standing problem with a heavy judicial backlog. The law, which was approved by President Abdullah Gül on Feb. 12 and published in the Official Gazette on Feb. 14, aimed to alleviate the burden of the high judiciary by bringing the total number of chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals from 32 to 38 and increase the number of Council of State chambers from 13 to 15.
April 9, Monday
Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Kütahya deputy İdris Bal said police should be given a more proactive role in fighting separatist violence and that gendarmerie forces should be taken off anti-terrorism duties completely. Bal, who previously presented a step-by-step guide to Parliament and government offices on how to prevent military interventions, released a report on how to stop terrorist PKK violence and solve the Kurdish question on Monday.
Mehmet Yürek, who lost many of his relatives in the Dersim massacre of 1937-1938, told the parliamentary Dersim sub-commission, established to investigate incidents that occurred in the early years of the republic in the predominantly Alevi region of Dersim, that the one-party-era government was responsible for the massacre -- namely then-Prime Ministers İsmet İnönü and Celal Bayar, Chief of General Staff Gen. Fevzi Çakmak and 3rd Army Commander Rauf Orbay -- and called on the parliamentary Dersim sub-commission, established to investigate incidents that occurred in the early years of the republic in Dersim, to prosecute the officials who were responsible for those tragic events.
Seven soldiers who survived a massacre committed by the PKK in the southeastern province of Bingöl in 1993 in which 33 soldiers were killed came together for the first time 19 years after the incident for an interview with the Hürriyet daily to explain how the massacre happened and how they have continued their lives. The soldiers said they were heading towards the Bingöl Gendarmerie Command in two minibuses and were stopped by a group of PKK terrorists who opened fire nonstop for five minutes, killing 33 soldiers; 7,500 bullets are reported to have been used in the attack. Some soldiers survived because their friends collapsed on them when the terrorists opened fire. Others survived by fleeing the scene when the terrorists divided them into two groups before the execution.
Gendarmerie officers at the Silivri prison complex, which houses the Silivri Courthouse, where suspects in ongoing coup cases were standing trial, were under strict supervision of their seniors due to complaints from coup suspects’ relatives, who frequently argued with the officers. Gendarmerie officers in the Silivri prison complex were frequently verbally harassed by the relatives of the coup suspects. The trials of Ergenekon -- a shadowy criminal network with alleged links within the state, suspected of plotting to topple the government -- and Sledgehammer, a coup plot, were being held at the Silivri Courthouse.
April 10, Tuesday
Retired Col. Tarık Akça, a retired colonel who was released on bail pending trial as part of the Sledgehammer attempted coup investigation, was found dead in his office in the capital.
A copy of a letter bearing the name but not the signature of the 1980 coup leader, retired Gen. Kenan Evren -- the chief of General Staff at the time -- which was sent to then-President Fahri Korutürk, finally saw the light of day, but it was not known where the original might be stored. The Ankara 12th High Criminal Court was hearing the case of the two former generals -- Chief of General Staff Evren and Air Force Commander Tahsin Şahinkaya -- who staged the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. The two men were accused of overthrowing a democratically elected government by force. In the trial, the court questioned the General Staff, demanding to see the original copy of a letter reportedly sent by Evren to Korutürk on Dec. 27, 1979. The General Staff said no such letter had been found in the archives, but the court was waiting on an answer from the Office of the Presidency, which might have stored the original of the document.
An indictment prepared by prosecutors in a corruption case involving German-based Turkish charity Deniz Feneri said there was no need for legal action regarding claims that the suspects were involved in organized crime.
Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, who was arrested in November on terrorism charges as part of an investigation into the KCK, was released pending trial along with 14 other suspects in the case.
An İstanbul prosecutor completed an indictment following an investigation into allegations that security footage from the day of the 2006 Council of State shooting was intentionally destroyed.
The families of 34 people who were killed by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in a botched military airstrike in late December were in Parliament, where they attended the parliamentary group meeting of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and visited the party groups of the other parties and the parliamentary Human Rights Commission.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) fined Turkey for violating the “right to life” and “access to court” principles of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case concerning a 7-year-old child who froze to death while walking home from school, after classes were cancelled due to a blizzard, because the municipality shuttle was late.
April 11, Wednesday
During an official visit to China, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he regretted the passage of a law in 2007 that shortened the time between general elections from five to four years, the Radikal daily reported on Wednesday. A new debate appeared in the media since Erdoğan’s remarks on the issue. Erdoğan endorsed holding parliamentary elections every five years, as before the 2007 law. Erdoğan said that holding general elections every five years would help keep Turkey politically stable.
Political parties in Parliament gathered to establish a commission to investigate Turkey’s past coups and military interventions in politics.
Prosecutors from two provinces began investigating the possible links between the suspicious deaths of several military commanders, suspecting that there might be an organized structure behind the incidents.
The Specially Authorized Malatya Prosecutor’s Office, which was conducting an investigation into the death of Col. Kazım Çillioğlu -- officially deemed a suicide but later reopened after new evidence came to light indicating that Çillioğlu could have been murdered -- recently requested the case files on Gen. Bahtiyar Aydın and Col. Rıdvan Özden from the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office. The three deaths came one after another between 1991 and 1995. Investigators began to focus on possible connections between the deaths, and sources close to the prosecutors indicated that there was also evidence suggesting the murders were connected.
The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) admitted to having used Mahmut Yıldırım, codenamed “Yeşil” (Green), a hitman suspected of some of Turkey’s most mysterious political killings, in four of its operations. MİT’s admission came after the Diyarbakır Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office, which was overseeing a probe into unsolved murders in Turkey’s Southeast between 1990 and 1997, asked the institution whether Yeşil was a member of MİT and in which MİT operations he was used.
April 12, Thursday
Osman Partal and Erkan Omay, two of the seven soldiers who survived a massacre by the terrorist PKK in the southeastern province of Bingöl in 1993, in which 33 soldiers were killed, spoke in Parliament to describe the massacre and request that the state officially recognize them as veterans.
Turkish Ambassador to the US Namık Tan slammed an opinion article published in The Washington Times that advised US President Barack Obama not to publicly praise Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan’s point of view on raising girls. The article claimed that Muslim women in Turkey are second-class citizens. Tan said the allegations are “unfortunate and unfair.” In a letter to the newspaper, he said that, as a proud husband and father, he was shocked to read an op-ed that maligned Erdoğan and used an unjustified attack on his beloved daughter to grossly mischaracterize the role of women in Turkey.
April 13, Friday
Dinç Bilgin, a businessman and former owner of the Sabah newspaper said that Turkish newspapers published lies under orders from the military during Turkey’s Feb. 28, 1997 coup, and that he is willing to testify in front of prosecutors, who on Thursday issued arrest warrants for 31 generals accused of orchestrating the coup.
The European Commission has once again called coup investigations “an opportunity” for Turkish democracy while emphasizing the need to respect the rights of defendants. In a written statement to Today’s Zaman, the EC said the probe into the military intervention of Feb. 28, 1997 is “an opportunity for Turkey to strengthen confidence in the proper functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law.”
President Abdullah Gül claimed that the peace plan set out by international envoy Kofi Annan is the last opportunity for the Syrian regime, which should use it wisely.