CHP visits executed PM’s mausoleum for first time
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (C) and deputy leader Sezgin Tanrıkulu (R) pray in front of the grave of Adnan Menderes, who was executed by the junta in 1961. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIKMain opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu yesterday paid a historic visit to the mausoleum of former Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes on the 51th anniversary of his execution in his latest move of transforming the party.
Kılıçdaroğlu said he was there “to break with tradition,” which referred to the previous party administrations’ apathy for Menderes and his friends.
Menderes, leader of the now defunct Democrat Party (DP) and Turkey’s first democratically-elected prime minister, was hung by the military junta after the 1960 coup d’état, along with two other cabinet members, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan. The junta at the time claimed that Menderes and his friends had created a system of one party rule and steered the country away from its Kemalist roots and principals.
Under such circumstances, many Kemalists have referred to the May 27, 1960 coup as the “May 27 Revolution,” keeping a distance from the DP members forced out of the office. Right-wing politicians on the other hand, including Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, hail Menderes as a “martyr for democracy.”
“All political executions in Turkey’s history were murders. We have to face this and admit this,” Kılçdaroğlu told reporters after his visit. “They served this country, the pain from their executions still remains.”
The execution of Menderes, Zorlu and Polatkan is considered one of the main reasons for the executions of three revolutionary student leaders following the March 12, 1971 military coup. Many believe that Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseytin İnan were hung on May 6, 1972, “to settle the score.” A number of members of the Justice Party (AP) - which was founded to replace the DP and was led by Süleyman Demirel at the time - reportedly shouted “three for three” during a parliamentary session to vote for the approval of the three student leaders’ execution.
Kılıçdaroğlu also became the first CHP leader to visit the graves of Gezmiş, Aslan and İnan on May 6, the 40th anniversary of their executions.
Menderes was one of the founders of the DP in 1946. The party won the country’s first fullu democratic elections in 1950.
On May 27, 1960, a military junta composed mostly of low-ranking officials called the “National Unity Organization,” overthrew the DP government.
Then-President Celal Bayar, Prime Minister Menderes and a number of other members of the government were arrested, put on trial and accused of high treason, misuse of public funds and abrogation of the constitution.
Bayar and other party members were sentenced to life imprisonment, and the president was sent to prison in Kayseri till November 1964 when he was released due to his poor health. To the contrary, Menderes, former Foreign Minister Zorlu and former Finance Minister Polatkan, after many considered a show trial was conducted on Yassıada Island in the Sea of Marmara and despite pleas for forgiveness from several leaders, including then CHP leader İsmet İnönü, were executed on Sept. 17, 1961.