Turkish prosecutor demands life sentences for Feb. 28 post-modern coup generals

A Turkish prosecutor requested life imprisonment for 60 suspects, including a former military chief and his deputy, over the 1997 post-modern coup process that forced the then-Islamist government to step down and led a subsequent crackdown inside the country.

The demand of the prosecutor came during a trial at Ankara’s 5th High Criminal Court about 103 defendants who have been accused of taking part in Feb. 28 post-modern coup process in 1997.

According to a report by pro-government media, the prosecutor accused Retired Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı, 85, and his deputy at the time, retired Gen. Çevik Bir, 78, of  plotting to topple the government. He asked for aggravated life sentences for the two former generals and 60 other military officials within Bir’s command echelon while asking for the release of remaining 41 suspects. The next hearing was postponed to January 8.

Karadayı served as the chief of the military staff from 1994 to 1998, at a time when the army put pressure on then-Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and his Welfare Party (RP) over “secular concerns.” On Feb. 28, 1997, the military-dominated National Security Council (MGK) threatened action if Erbakan did not back down. He resigned four months later, whereas the RP and its successor Virtue Party were banned by the Constitutional Court in Jan. 1998 and June 2001.

Within the scope of the Feb. 28 decisions, the “Batı Çalışma Grubu” (West Study Group) was founded and chaired by Bir, who was considered the “mastermind” of the coup plot, to control the proceeding of the decrees under the name of “Action Plan against Reactionary Forces.”

Briefings on secularism were given, particularly to judges, civil servants and media executives, by members of the military. Repression of religious segments of society was hardened, including a ban on headscarves at universities. A great number of civil servants were fired. Heavy censorship was imposed on the media, and opposition journalists were fired. Some companies saw embargoes imposed, on the pretext that they support reactionary politics.

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