1980 coup generals continue to evade justice despite amendment

TANJU ÖZKAYA
?STANBUL

Various individuals and groups have applied to prosecutors demanding that the perpetrators of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’état be brought to justice, which became possible after a constitutional amendment package was approved by a national vote on Sept. 12 of this year; however, prosecutors have been slow to commence legal actions.
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, responding to questions from deputies in Parliament, on Sunday said 680 people have so far petitioned the Ankara chief prosecutor, demanding he press charges against the 1980 generals and their retinue. The constitutional amendment package passed on Sept. 12 lifted Temporary Article 15 of the Constitution, which barred the seeking of any legal remedy against perpetrators of the 1980 coup d’état. Many civil society groups say that it has been over three months since they submitted their petitions but that charges have still not been brought against anyone for their involvement in the coup.

Turkish democracy has unfortunately been stalled by constant military interventions in politics throughout its history. Turkey’s near history has witnessed two full-fledged coups and many direct and indirect military interventions. Although carrying out or plotting a coup is considered a criminal offense, only failed coup plotters have been tried in Turkey, while none of the coup leaders have stood trial. A prosecutor, Sacit Kayasu, had prepared an indictment against the 1980 coup leader, Kenan Evren, 10 years ago but this move resulted in his disbarment.
Those that petitioned prosecutors include the Yetmez Ama Evet (Not Enough But Yes) platform, the ‘78ers Federation, the Young Civilians, MAZLUM-Der, the Freedom Association (Özgür-Der) and the Human Rights Association (?HD). In addition to these and other civil society groups, many political parties have expressed an interest in the outcome of the complaints filed by NGOs and individuals.
These groups and representatives of political parties now plan to apply to prosecutors once again, demanding charges be filed against the 1980 junta and the bureaucrats who worked with or for them at the time. The Yetmez Ama Evet platform, established shortly before the Sept. 12, 2010 referendum on the constitutional amendment package, said they filed their application on the day after the amendments were passed. Spokesperson for the group ?enol Karaka? said they will do anything to aid prosecutors and help the investigation. “But there have not yet been any developments. We will have a meeting amongst ourselves to assess the situation. We intend to ask the prosecutors the reason why the investigation into the coup has not yet progressed to a full trial. We are prepared to take other initiatives based on our findings. We are determined to see this through.”
Similar feelings and views were expressed by Nejat Kangal, head of the ‘78ers Federation, who said his organization hoped to see at least one trial commence before yearend. Kangal said for the constitutional amendments to mean something, the coup perpetrators had to be tried. “You have an obvious crime — a coup d’état. It’s not just that the perpetrators aren’t being tried, but they are also being protected,” he said. He added that many other countries with similar histories in military interventions have eventually been able to try their own generals. Kangal said at least the title of “former president” of the 1980 general, Kenan Evren, could be revoked. He vowed that his organization would not let this go without getting results.
Turgay O?ur of the Young Civilians said the failure to try coup generals would always be a top priority issue on his organization’s agenda. He said these people have already been tried in the conscience of the nation, noting that this now had to be reflected in the judicial arena. “We are waiting for our application to be processed. No developments have yet occurred regarding our criminal complaint. We might have to find our own way to keep this matter alive if it goes on like this.”
R?dvan Kaya, the head of Özgür-Der, said he suspected that the reason behind the failure to try the generals is each attributable to the prosecutors passing the ball each other. “There have been criminal complaints filed across Turkey. The prosecutors are all watching each other. If one lays charges then the others will follow.” He said he couldn’t understand the failure to try those responsible for the 1980 coup despite the constitutional amendments.
Head of another rights group, MAZLUM-DER, Ahmet Faruk Ünsal also said that there has been no development regarding their complaints. He said they planned to schedule an appointment with the prosecutors if there is no change in the near future. “We think three months is enough time for an investigation to progress to trial, but no adequate developments have yet occurred. We are considering taking further action in this regard,” he said.


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