ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Challenging the authority of the court trying them, two surviving chiefs of 1980 coup reject all charges, saying they made the appropriate choice for the sake of the country. Asked about the executions, ex-president Evren says they showed they were not taking sides by hanging both leftists and rightists
This 2010 file photo shows coup leader ex-President Evren sitting at home in Ankara. The two remaining putschists have refused to answer questions. AFP photo
The two surviving members of the junta that led Turkey’s 1980 coup delivered their defense to the 12th Ankara
Court of Serious Crimes from hospital yesterday, refusing all charges and challenging the court’s authority in their trial.
Arguing that the National Security Council (MGK) – a five-man junta administration composed of top generals – was the constituent power, the Chief of General Staff during the coup, Kenan Evren, said all of the MGK’s actions gained the force of law with the approval of the 1982 Constitution in a referendum.
“We made the appropriate choice at that time. We would stage a revolution if it was today. The revolution is a historic event. Historic events cannot be judged. The judiciary, which takes its judicial authority from the 1982 Constitution, does not have the authority to charge and try us,” Evren said during yesterday’s hearing.
‘Coup not a crime’
Evren used the old Turkish word of “ihtilal” in referring to the military coup. “İhtilal” means revolution in Turkish but many people, including soldiers, use the word to mean a military coup instead of the normal Turkish word for coup, “darbe.”
“Staging a revolution [coup] is not a crime according to our laws. We did not attempt a revolution, we staged one. Everybody should know that staging a revolution and attempting to stage one are not the same,” Evren said, referring to the charges he faces of “attempting to suspend the constitutional order.”
When asked about death penalties during the coup period, Evren said they aimed to prove they were not taking sides by hanging both leftists and rightists.
“There were people from the left and from the right at the courts. We told them not to execute only leftists. We hanged one from the right, one from the left. In this way, we wanted to prove we were not taking sides,” Evren said. Military prosecutors demanded capital punishment for 7,000 people during the coup period, resulting in 517 receiving the death penalty; 50 were ultimately hanged.
The other surviving coup leader, Tahsin Şahinkaya, also refused the court’s authority. “I cannot be called a defendant since I’m a part of the constituent power,” the then-Air Force commander said.
Defense from hospital
The 10th hearing of the coup trial opened early yesterday with the absence of the two suspects. Evren, 95, and Şahinkaya, 87, are both currently receiving care in a hospital. The pair gave their testimony via an audio-visual conference system, with a delegated judge witnessing their testimonies at the hospital. At the beginning of the trial, one of the intervening lawyers, Fikret Babaoğlu, said Evren and Şahinkaya should give their pleas in court regarding the “systematic torture” exercised by the army in the aftermath of the coup. However, the judge overturned the demand, saying the torture claims should be tried as part of a different case.
When the judge asked a perfunctory question to Evren – whether he would give his plea with his lawyer – he appeared tired, frail and puzzled, saying they had nothing to do with systematic torture during the coup period. Intervening lawyers asked the court to take Şahinkaya’s plea first, as he was the inferior of Evren, a demand which the court accepted. Şahinkaya said they “fulfilled their duty to the Turkish nation” by staging the coup and protecting Turkish people from an assault which was directed at its existence at the time. “We made the most appropriate choice for the Turkish nation for that time.”