Nine arrested on coup charges

Nine arrested on coup charges

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Nine arrested on coup charges

Police officers escort supects in the probe into the ‘post-modern coup’ of 1997. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Nine suspects, including two generals, were arrested yesterday on charges of attempting a military coup in the probe into the so-called “post-modern coup” of Feb. 28, 1997, while another seven were released.

Meanwhile, a decision about whether to arrest former deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Çevik Bir and others detained last week had not been made by late yesterday when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print.

Some 28 retired military officials were taken to the Ankara Police Headquarters for questioning April 12; they were handed over to judicial authorities over the weekend to give testimony to public prosecutors Mustafa Bilgili and Kemal Çetin. Retired generals Abdullah Kılıçarslan and İdris Koralp, as well as other seven retired officers who were accused of attempting a military coup, were arrested on suspicions that they could escape.

The police mainly asked the detainees about the “Western Action Concept” of the “West Working Group,” which was a committee of military officials that is said to have monitored the government’s activities and kept illegal records of private information about thousands of people.

Bir said in his police examination that preventing religious fundamentalism was their duty according to the National Security Policy Document issued by the National Security Council at that time.

“Protecting the Turkish Republic is the duty of the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]. Religious fundamentalism was the primary internal threat according to the National Security Policy Document at that time. This document was signed by the ministers and the prime minister at the time. The Western Action Concept was created to fight religious fundamentalism. We conducted all of our works in accordance with our legal and constitutional duties. If we hadn’t done our duty, we would have committed illegal acts,” Bir reportedly told the police.

Retired colonels and other low-level retired officials, for their part, said they carried out the orders of their seniors at the time.

The “post-modern coup” or the “Feb. 28 process” refers to a harsh army-led campaign that forced Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, to resign in June 1997 after only a year in office. The process took its name from the Feb. 28, 1997, meeting of the National Security Council, at which Turkey’s then-omnipotent military imposed a series of tough secularist decisions on Erbakan that aimed mainly at curbing Islamic education in the face of what was perceived to be a growing threat to Turkey’s secular system.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay hailed the probe, saying all of the government efforts were for “Turkey’s normalization.”

“I’m one of the witnesses of the Feb. 28 process. I was the rector of a university, and then I was dismissed. Investigations and other things – we witnessed all. Now all of those extraordinary events will be investigated. Our primary wish is this: I hope such things will be over. I hope neither these things [coups], nor probes will happen. I hope Turkey will be normalized and that the development of democracy will be ensured,” Atalay told reporters yesterday in the western province of Balıkesir.