‘Post-modern coup’ trial kicks off in Ankara

‘Post-modern coup’ trial kicks off in Ankara

‘Post-modern coup’ trial kicks off in Ankara

The suspects were brought to court under high security measures, with brief tension experienced between the defendants’ families and security forces. DHA photo

The infamous Feb. 28, “post-modern” coup trial hearings have started being held in Ankara’s 13th Criminal Court on Sept. 2, where former Chief of General Staff İsmail Hakkı Karadayı and 102 other co-defendants will be tried for “overthrowing the Turkish government by force.” The trial will last until Sept. 6.

Karadayı, the prime suspect, who has been released pending trial and who may face a life sentence, did not attend today’s trial due to ill health. After the indictment was read, the defendants began to be heard in order, with the first being Gen. Çevik Bir, as Karadayı was not present. 

Other suspects of the case include former generals including Çevik Bir, Erdal Ceylanoğlu and Çetin Doğan, as well as Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Engin Alan and former Higher Education Board (YÖK) head Kemal Gürüz. 

The suspects were brought to court under high security measures, with brief tension experienced between the defendants’ families and security forces. From the early morning, the Ankara Justice Hall was surrounded by police barricades. Before the hearing, the police only allowed people who were on their list to enter the hall after an ID check. Before the hearing, a group staged a protest in front of the building, daily Radikal reported. 

The hearings, which are being recorded by the Justice Ministry, are expected to be attended by 500 people, including relatives of the defendants, journalists and politicians.

Meanwhile, a recusation demand over Judge Hakan Oruç, one of the member judges of the Feb. 28 case, was rejected on Sept.2. Several lawyers had previously requested the recusation of Oruç, due to his previous role in the investigation stage of the case, in which he had been involved with the arrest of some suspects. The rejection came right after the break and was announced by the court head Tayyar Köksal. 

The bloodless “post-modern” coup is known to have led to the toppling the country’s first Islamist head of government, Necmettin Erbakan from the Welfare Party (RP), after a parade of tanks passed outside Ankara and an ultimatum addressed to Erbakan forced him to resign, following a National Security Council (MGK) meeting on Feb. 28, 1997.

Erbakan is widely seen as having been a political mentor to the current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Since his party’s coming to power in 2002, Erdoğan has been engaged in an effort to dismantle the army’s influence over politics through a series of court cases, including the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) trials.

According to a landmark verdict in the Ergenekon coup plot case on Aug. 5, former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow Erdoğan’s government. The verdict also ruled over the fate of 275 suspects at the end of a five-year long process, resulting in hundreds of years of imprisonment in total and several aggravated life sentences for a series of the country’s high-ranking army members, journalists and academics.

The army, traditionally deeming itself the guarantor of Turkey’s secularism, had overthrown three administrations in 1960, 1971 and 1980.