Turkish government criticized at trial of 1980 coup

Turkish government criticized at trial of 1980 coup

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish government criticized at trial of 1980 coup

A man carries a banner that reads ‘This trial will not be forgotten,’ yesterday in front of the Ankara Courthouse where the second hearing of the 1980 military coup trial was held. Suspects Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya were absent again. AA photo

Intervening lawyers accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of exploiting the 1980 coup trial for political ends at the second hearing of the case yesterday, as brief tensions erupted over the presence in the courtroom of a former far-right militant.

One of the intervening lawyers, Sabri Kuşkonmaz, said the historic nature of the trial was being lost as the government abused it politically. “Erdoğan has declared that saying ‘yes’ at the 2010 referendum should be a precondition for requesting intervention. This is dirty politics.”

The lawyer for the prime minister’s office, Sami Arslan Aşkın, who applied for intervening party status on behalf of the government, said the trial had become possible thanks to the prime minister, Parliament and the government. 

The two ailing defendants, coup leader Kenan Evren and former commander of the air force Tahsin Şahinkaya were again absent yesterday. The court continued to receive requests for intervening party status, as the applicants made short speeches explaining their suffering after the coup.

The 105-year-old Berfo Kırbayır, whose son had disappeared after being taken into custody on Sept. 13, 1980, a day after the coup, also requested intervening party status, demanding that Evren be brought to the court. Kırbayır came to the courthouse carrying a photo of her son Cemil Kırbayır and was welcomed by the spectators with applause. 

Şükrü Bütün, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy at the time of the coup, described deadly attacks against Alevis in the late 1970s in Çorum, Sivas and Kahramanmaraş as “bloody milestones that were laid to pave the way for the Sept. 12 coup.” He said, “Those who conducted the coup waited until the conditions had matured.”

Meanwhile, squabbles erupted when Ökkeş Şendiller – a nationalist who stood trial for the Maraş massacre in 1978, which claimed the lives of 150 Alevis, but was cleared – also applied for intervening party status.

Cumhur Yavuz, a leftist activist, said, “You are a murderer, how dare you speak here?” The judge suspended the hearing for 10 minutes to ease the tension. Şendiller did not return to the courtroom after the break. The court will resume the hearing today.

In a related development, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chairman Devlet Bahçeli said not only Evren and Şahinkaya but also all parties responsible for the massive oppression and torture chambers that followed the coup should be put on trial. He appealed to left-wing activists for reconciliation and said facing up to the coup and the past should not rekindle old hostilities between the right and the left.