How it was in Greece vs. how it was in Turkey

How it was in Greece vs. how it was in Turkey

Be it military or civilian, coup d’états and attempts at coups should certainly be held accountable before independent judicial organs. But this “calling to account” should not be belated as the principle states “justice delayed is justice denied.” 

Now, our delayed situation is being reviewed and compared with other countries’ coup d’états and their resulting consequences. One of them is the 1967 coup in Greece, where the military administration held power for seven and a half years. The coup came to an end in 1974 and as soon as it was over investigations against the military started immediately. The investigations lasted about a year. The leaders of the coup were sentenced to death. However, death sentences were reduced to life imprisonment. There were no significant objections to this result from legal or political angles. Coup tendencies in the country were eliminated. 

The fact that there was no delay in holding the parties involved accountable and the short time it took to finalize the investigation did indeed play a role in the elimination of coup tendencies. But there is a reason Greece was able to achieve this. 

The Greek junta did not decide to handover the administration to civilians by their own wish. They had to do it. 

The junta convinced the king to swear in their members as the legitimate government of Greece in 1967, then later abolished the kingdom and declared a “republic.” They had no intention of going back to democracy. Their power was shaken only a little by resistance movements that began in universities in 1973. They tried to overcome it through changes made in the government. Their aim was to win a “Cyprus victory.” They calculated that if they succeeded in that then they would have the support of a large portion of the Greek public. 

But this calculation went awry. Let’s remember those days shortly: The plan in Cyprus was to stage a coup by activating the junta-backed nationalist elements there to remove the Greek-Turkish joint state and form an “Ellen Republic” with de facto affiliation to Greece. 

This plan was put into effect on July 14, 1974. Head of the coup in Cyprus, Nikos Sampson, took control and declared an “Ellen Republic” causing President Makarios III to flee the island. Holiday festivities were held in Greece. 

However, the plan collapsed six days later. Turkey, using its right of intervention recognized in international agreements, deployed troops to the island. Neither the Greek Cypriot forces on the island or the Greek junta in Athens were able to do anything against this. “Ellen Republic” was over along with the dreams of the junta.

It was immediately clear that while the junta was planning to make Cyprus an entirely Greek island, it lacked the necessary military and political power to execute this plan. They had assumed that Turkey would not react effectively to this move. The Greek people had a huge reaction to the defeat of the coup. New President General Gizikos accepted that a national unity government was to be formed and comprised of civilians. Former Prime Minister Karamanlis was called to the country. Fast steps were taken on the road to democracy. Investigations against the junta were launched and finalized. 

In that way, the disaster Greeks had to face in foreign policy saved them from the domestic disaster they were going through. 

In our situation though, the answer to the question “Why has there been a delay in holding the coup administration accountable?” is, in short, this: Our coup operators did not leave their posts due to public reaction or through any incident. They decided to leave themselves. 

After making that decision, they took measures to secure themselves. Transformation to democracy came in phases. The 1983 constitution had articles to dictate this, such as mandating that Kenan Evren will be president for seven years, the National Security Council will be the Presidential Council for six years and former political leaders were banned from politics for 10 years while other politicians were banned for five years. The military administration kept veto power on political parties and elections and practices of the military regime were immune from prosecution. 

All of these and similar rules were in effect after the new parliament opened in 1983. In that aspect, there was an unnamed “consensus” among the military administration, a segment of the public and politicians of political parties formed after 1982. No one opposed the practices at those stages while the regime was becoming civilian. 

That “consensus” is the reason for the delay. 

Altan Öymen is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece appeared on April 18. It was translated into English by Daily News staff.