Details from Evren’s interrogation on coup atrocities emerge

by editor | 20th June 2011 8:17 am

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In this October 29, 1980 file photo, the leaders of Sept.12 military coup, from left to right, Adm. Nejat Tümer, Gen. Nurettin Ersin, Gen. Gen. Kenan Evren, Gen. Tahsin ?ahinkaya and Gen. Sedat Celasun salute during the Republic Day ceremony at the Mausoleum of the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, in Ankara, Turkey.
As details emerge from the testimony of retired Gen. Kenan Evren, the leader of the 1980 military coup, it becomes clearer that an Ankara specially authorized prosecutor questioned him about crimes against humanity committed before and after the coup. The prosecutor, however, did not question him about the ill treatment of individuals in prisons following the staging of the coup.
In early June, Ankara Specially Authorized Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hüseyin Görü?en questioned Evren at his house about the coup period. Evren was the chief of General Staff when he staged the coup and later served as Turkey’s seventh president. The prosecutor asked the retired general 12 questions, which mainly concerned the motives behind the coup. During his testimony, Evren said he based his actions on Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) Internal Service Code. He reportedly said the coup ended years of political violence in which some 5,000 people had been killed.

The investigation into the bloody coup was launched after a constitutional amendment package was adopted in a referendum on Sept. 12, 2010, which is coincidentally the anniversary of the coup. The package introduced many changes to the Constitution, including the removal of a temporary article that had been inserted by the generals after the coup, providing them with immunity from prosecution on coup-related charges. There are rumors that Evren may be tried and potentially face a life sentence without the possibility of parole if the prosecutor decides to file a lawsuit against him.

Among the questions directed at the retired general were: “You shut down Parliament and shelved the constitution after the coup; where did you receive the authority to consider yourself above the law?” “Why did you have then-Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Haydar Salt?k prepare the Bayrak [Flag] Operation Plan, which also inspired the Sledgehammer coup plan of our day?” “You detained 650,000 people, categorized 1,683,000 people, deprived 14,000 people of citizenship, shut down 23,677 associations, fired 30,000 people and executed 50 people — which authority or right allowed you to commit all these crimes?” “Staging a coup is considered a crime against humanity all over the world; do you believe that you committed a crime against humanity?” “You once said coup stagers waited until all conditions for a takeover matured; what does this mean?” “Did you not feel uncomfortable when you asked, ‘Should we be feeding them instead of hanging them?’ when commenting on the execution of 17-year-old Erdal Eren?” “You also said you executed one man from the leftist side and one from the rightist side for ‘balance.’ What kind of a balance was it that you sought to protect?” “Were the killings of 34 people who had convened to mark Workers’ Day on May 1, 1977, in Taksim Square among plans to pave the way for a coup d’état?” and “Did you hope to pave the path for a coup with the killings of dozens of people in Kahramanmara? in 1978?”

In the meantime, Evren’s lawyer Ömer Nihat Özgün is reportedly planning to file an application with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to allow his client to be protected by a statute of limitations. Instigators of the 1980 coup had expected to be protected by a statute of limitations in 2000, 20 years after the coup. However, a public prosecutor prepared an indictment against Evren in 2000, extending the statute of limitations for the coup generals for another 10 years. Legal experts differ in their opinions as to whether coup instigators can still be tried for coup atrocities. While some argue that no trial can take place because the statute of limitations for the crime has expired, others say that trying the retired generals is still possible.

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