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Ex-military chief Karadayı named number one suspect in Feb, 28 case

Media reports claim that the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has completed its preparation of an indictment of suspects being investigated as part of a probe into the Feb. 28 coup. According to some newspapers, the office is seeking aggravated life imprisonment for 100 military actors of the time. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has not confirmed the reports. A coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party was forced by the military to step down on Feb. 28, 1997. Not only were fatal blows dealt to fundamental rights and freedoms after the coup, but democracy and the rule of law were also suspended. The coup introduced a series of harsh restrictions on religious life, with an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of the Islamic headscarf. In 2012, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into the military actors of the coup. There are currently 76 suspects in jail pending trial on coup accusations. According to media reports, Ankara Public Prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili, who is carrying out the Feb. 28 investigation, is putting the final touches on the indictment in which he is seeking aggravated imprisonment sentences for the Feb. 28 suspects according to Article 147 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The indictment, allegedly 1,100 pages long, accuses the suspects of overthrowing the government via force and preventing it from performing its duty.The number one suspect in the case is Karadayı, who was detained in January for his role in the ousting of the government on Feb. 28. A prosecutor who questioned the former army chief demanded that he be arrested, but the court Karadayı was taken to released him pending trial on certain conditions. Karadayı, currently being kept under “judicial control,” is required to check in at a police station every week and is banned from leaving the country.

Retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who was the deputy chief of General Staff at the time of the 1997 coup, is also among the major suspects in the case. Bir is currently in jail pending trial as part of the Feb. 28 probe. He is known to have prepared a memorandum targeting journalists and institutions during the days of the coup which led to many facing intimidation or being fired from their jobs.

Gen. Yalçın Ataman, the 1st Army commander, is also referred to as among the major suspects in the indictment. The general testified to prosecutors as part of the Feb. 28 investigation earlier this month. Although a prosecutor demanded his arrest, a court released Ataman pending trial.

Among the other major suspects in the case are retired Gens. Fevzi Türkeri, Çetin Doğan and Teoman Koman, retired Maj. Gens. Erol Özkasnak, Çetin Saner and Kenan Deniz, and retired Lt. Gen. Engin Alan.


The indictment lists 400 complainants in the case, including former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller. Çiller's True Path Party (DYP) was a partner in the coalition government overthrown on Feb. 28.


Among other complainants is Turkey's first and so far only headscarved deputy, Merve Kavakçı. In April, Kavakçı filed a criminal complaint against the perpetrators of the Feb. 28 coup. Kavakçı stated in the complaint that she was the target of malicious news stories at the time because of her choice to wear a headscarf.


The then-National Police Department Intelligence Unit Chief Bülent Orakoğlu and Cpl. Kadir Sarmusak are also mentioned as complainants in the indictment. The two men were accused of stealing classified documents from the West Study Group (BÇG), which was established within the military to categorize politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats according to their religious and ideological backgrounds during the Feb. 28 coup era.


The indictment also listed the illegal activities of the BÇG and said the group manipulated civil society organizations and media organs in order to impose pressure on the government.


Sole civilian suspect: Kemal Gürüz


According to the Turkish media, the only civilian mentioned in the Feb. 28 indictment is former Higher Education Board (YÖK) President Kemal Gürüz. Gürüz was arrested in June of last year after prosecutors involved in the coup investigation seized documents and correspondence between retired Gen. Bir and Gürüz, strengthening suspicions that the former YÖK head played a major role in the 1997 coup. The documents were relayed to the clandestine BÇG.


Gürüz was detained in 2009 as part of the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of being nested within the state bureaucracy and working to overthrow democratically elected governments, but was later released pending trial. An indictment in the Ergenekon case asserted that Gürüz was working to “shape university administrations” both during his term in office at YÖK and after he retired. According to the indictment, Gürüz tried to influence appointments of rectors to universities even after his retirement.


According to reports, prosecutors will order a new series of detentions to question civilian actors of Feb. 28 followed by a separate indictment. The actors include members of the bureaucracy, judiciary, press and academia, according to the media.


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