Coup chiefs face court via video

Coup chiefs face court via video

Coup chiefs face court via video

Daily News Photo

Two leaders of the military junta that seized power in 1980 faced a court yesterday by video link from their hospital rooms, as part of a landmark trial that started in April.

Kenan Evren, 94, who served as president after the military takeover, and Tahsin Şahinkaya, 86, the former air force commander, have been charged with crimes against the state.

In yesterday’s hearing, the 80-page indictment was read in the presence of the suspects and the court was adjourned after the reading was over. Evren and Şahinkaya will testify and answer questions in today’s hearing.

Evren and Şahinkaya are the only members of the military junta that seized power in 1980 who are still alive. Their trial is seen as another episode in the current government’s campaign against the once untouchable top brass.

Evren - dressed in a black jumper and with a sheet pulled up over his legs - cut a frail figure, a shadow of the strongman who led Turkey for nine years, Reuters reported. His cheeks sunken, he appeared tired and expressionless, giving little indication of whether he understood what was being said in the courtroom as the indictment against him was read.

A nurse helped him lie up in bed and he leant over occasionally to consult a lawyer sat in his room at an Ankara military hospital. He spoke to confirm his father’s and mother’s names, date and place of birth to fulfill the formality of confirming his identity.

Evren gave his monthly income as 13,330 Turkish Liras ($7,400), while Şahinkaya said his income was 6,800 liras.

Judges previously accepted requests by political parties, Parliament and trade unions to be co-plaintiffs in the case, but there was skepticism from some about whether the Evren trial would bring justice to the coup victims.

‘Just a theater’

Former minister Yaşar Okuyan, who was among the thousands jailed after the coup, was also dismissive of the trial, which attracted little public interest at the court house in Ankara.

“This is just a theatre ... This is a 30-year-old problem, a legal solution will not emerge. It’s a government show,” Okuyan told Reuters outside the courtroom.

In April, the court rejected an appeal by prosecutors to arrest Evren, disappointing victims who had hoped his detention would guarantee he appeared in court in person. His ill health precluded such an appearance.

During the 1980 coup period, 650,000 people were taken into custody and 230,000 were put on trial.

Military prosecutors demanded capital punishment for 7,000 people; 517 of them received the death penalty and 50 were ultimately hanged. Military rulers revoked the citizenship of more than 14,000 Turks while another 30,000 left the country to seek refuge abroad.

Some 299 prison inmates also died of “undetermined” reasons while another 14 died in hunger strikes. Torture by security forces reportedly claimed another 171 lives.