Coup trial unites Turkey

Coup trial unites Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Coup trial unites Turkey

Thousands of people from different political backgrounds gather in front of a courthouse where a historic trial against the 1980 coup leaders begin despite their absentia. Daily News Photo, Selahattin Sönmez

The landmark trial over the 1980 coup opened yesterday in the absence of the two ailing defendants, coup leader Kenan Evren and then air force commander Tahsin Şahinkaya, as some intervening lawyers demanded that the pair be brought to court in a cage.

The judge rejected objections by the defense that the court was not legally authorized to prosecute the suspects. It also ruled that the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute would decide whether Evren, 94, and Sahinkaya, 86, were healthy enough to attend the hearings.

Evren, 94, Chief of General Staff during the coup and President until 1989 and Şahinkaya, 84, are the only two surviving members of the five-man junta that lead the coup. They are both currently in hospital.

The 150-person-capacity courtroom was overcrowded with spectators. Parliament, the government, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), as well as 500 other individuals and institutions, have requested intervening party status in the trial, on the grounds that they suffered in the coup.

At the beginning of the hearing, Evren and Şahinkaya’s lawyer Bülent Acar claimed the court did not have the jurisdiction to try Evren and asserted that the indictment was “null and void.”

Cemil Çiçek

The making of the new constitution
is as important as today’s historic
trial. We have to speed up our work
on the preparations of a new

“Like it or not, the 1982 constitution is still in force. You cannot ignore this constitution. The court will give its ruling according to this constitution. The prosecutor cannot conduct such a probe. For this reason, the court cannot hear a case which is legally null and void. Any hearing would be null and void because of the court’s incompetence. We demand that the indictment and the probe are considered null and void,” Acar said.

In a surprise move, he also suggested that the role of the U.S. and counter-guerilla operations in the coup should be investigated.

In response, intervening lawyer Fikret Babaoğlu demanded that the two retired generals be brought to court forcefully.

“Coup plotters are queuing up at hospitals when they are sued. We have seen it in the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) [coup] cases. They will come here either on wheelchairs, like Pinochet, or in a cage, like Hosni Mubarak. There cannot be a hearing without a face-off,” Babaoğlu said.

Meral Danış Beştaş, an intervening lawyer and BDP deputy chair, meanwhile, demanded the two retired generals’ arrest.

“Hundreds of people, charged with similar crimes to the suspects, are under arrest. The suspects should be arrested as well,” Beştaş said.

Another intervening lawyer, Ömer Kaleli, also demanded Evren’s arrest “to assure his right to life,” suggesting that Evren might commit suicide.


Institutions established as a result
of the coup like the YÖK and the
special-authority courts which are
the copycat of the security courts must be abolished.

Evren said in June 2009 that he would kill himself if people lent support to constitutional amendments that would be able to put him on trial.

The constitutional provision that provided a judicial shield for the junta was scrapped as part of an AKP-sponsored package of amendments, adopted in a referendum on September 12, 2010.

The court decided to postpone the reading of the indictment on the grounds that the defendants were not present. It was still receiving requests for intervening party status when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print yesterday.