Retired general testifies in probe into general’s death

Retired general testifies in probe into general’s death

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Retired general testifies in probe into general’s death

DHA Photo

Retired general Çevik Bir, who is under arrest in the ongoing probe into Feb. 28 “post-modern coup,” testified yesterday as a witness in the probe on the death of another former soldier.

Bir was brought to the Ankara Courthouse from Sincan Prison in order to be questioned by prosecutor Hüseyin Şahin, who is investigating the death of Gen. Eşref Bitlis, who died in a plane crash on Feb. 17, 1993.

Former top gendarmerie commander Gen. Bitlis’s death had led to speculation that he had been assassinated by the “deep state” because of his willingness to try to solve the Kurdish problem outside the parameters of the Turkish state’s official policies, including through a plan to give more rights to Kurds.

Bir’s lawyer, Abdullah Atila Bingöl, told Anatolia news agency that Bir had been questioned because he was working at the Chief of Staff headquarters at the time of Bitlis’s death.

“My client told the prosecutor that he had no information regarding the death of Bitlis, because he was temporarily stationed in Somailia at the time of the incident,” Bingöl said.

The investigation into Bitlis’s death was launched after a voice recording by retired Col. Arif Doğan, who is a suspect in the ongoing Ergenekon trial, emerged, in which Doğan reportedly said he had assisted in the “assassination” of Bitlis. Doğan confirmed that the voice in the recordings was his, but claimed they had been spliced in order to incriminate him.

Bir, the leading figure in the campaign that forced late Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to resign as part of the “Feb. 28 process” of 1997, was arrested last April as a part of a probe into that alleged coup plot. Bir was the deputy chief of the general staff during the process.

The chief of general staff at the time, İsmail Hakkı Karadayı, was questioned last week and released on condition of judicial control. Karadayı must report to a police station once a week and has been prohibited from travelling abroad.