Report casts doubt on ex-president’s death
This file photo show late Turkish President Turgut Özal (L) with his wife Semra Özal. An autopsy should have been performed just after Özal’s passing, Turkey’s State Audit Board says, adding that a new autopsy can be made in case of his family’s request.
The 1993 death of Turkish President Turgut Özal is “suspicious” and should be reinvestigated, according to a report released yesterday by Turkey’s State Audit Board (DDK).
An autopsy should have been performed after Özal’s death but was not, the DDK said, adding that the late president’s family and judiciary should now decide on how to proceed with the case.
Consent from a victim’s family and a court order is needed for the exhumation of a body.
“Özal, who did not have any long-running or serious illnesses, died unexpectedly when he was in office. Such a death should always be approached as suspicious,” read the conclusion of the 44-page report published on the official website of the President’s Office.
The DDK report said the failure to perform an autopsy at the time of death was inexplicable. In addition, the lack of written procedures on the process for issuing statements on the deaths or serious injuries of sitting presidents also contributed to the speculation surrounding Özal’s death.
Özal was elected prime minister in 1983 in the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup and later became the country’s eighth president in 1989. Born in the eastern province of Malatya, Özal was of partial Kurdish origin, and his policies led to a huge liberalization of the Turkish economy. However, his tenure in office was cut short when he died on April 17, 1993.
President Abdullah Gül ordered the DDK to investigate Özal’s death following long-running allegations that he died as the result of foul play and not from a heart attack as officially reported at the time.
The DDK report also highlighted the lack of necessary medical equipment at the Çankaya Presidential Palace at the time of Özal’s death. “Although Özal’s previous medical problems and his busy schedule are no secret, it is unacceptable not to have a fully equipped ambulance with the necessary personnel ready at the [Presidential] Palace,” the report said, adding that nothing had been done beyond what would have been done for a normal person in a similar situation.
The DDK had established a panel of medical experts, the report said. “With the lack of autopsy and other necessary operations to indicate the cause of death, and the uncertainty regarding the results of blood work done on samples taken from Özal after his death, the medical experts’ panel has indicated that Özal’s cause of death remains a mystery,” the board said in the report.
Regarding the allegations that Özal was victim of an assassination, the DDK said that only a limited investigation could be conducted. “Most claims are not based on concrete facts but on speculation over the ‘reason for his killing,’ citing various local and international situations … Hence, there was no way to prove such claims. Only after the cause of death is determined can such allegations be investigated.”
The “procedure and process” to determine Özal’s cause of death is something “late president Turgut Özal’s family and the judiciary should decide on,” the report added.
The DDK said a copy of the report had been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office.