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Top commanders of Feb. 28 arrested in coup probe

Ankara prosecutors on Wednesday referred five top commanders of the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup for arrest after they testified as part of the investigation into the coup. The court ruled to jail two of the prominent generals. Just one day before the 16th anniversary of the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup, five retired generals, including former Land Forces Commander retired Gen. Erdal Ceylanoğlu and former Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Aslan Güner, and one active duty colonel were summoned to the Ankara Courthouse on Wednesday to testify as part of an investigation into the coup. Early on Wednesday, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office demanded the testimony of Güner and Ceylanoğlu -- who were top commanders during the coup period -- as well as retired Maj. Gens. Mehmet Başpınar and Yücel Özsır and Col. Mehmet Cumhur Yatıkkaya. Güner and Ceylanoğlu were accompanied by police officers to the Ankara Courthouse, while the other officers were in other provinces. They were initially taken to state hospitals in their cities for a medical check-up and later brought to Ankara. They were then taken to the courthouse for their testimony to be heard by prosecutors involved in the Feb. 28 probe.

Prosecutors Mustafa Bilgili and Kemal Çetin demanded the arrest of the top five generals for their alleged role in the Feb. 28 military intervention. Retired Gen. Erdal Ceylanoğlu and Yücel Özsır were sent to jail while the remaining three commanders were conditionally released by the court.

Ceylanoğlu was the commander of the Ankara Etimesgut Armored Division in the Feb. 28 period and is known as the one who ordered tanks into the streets of Ankara during the Feb. 28 period in a show of power against the government. Güner, who was at the helm of the General Staff's intelligence department during the coup era, is remembered for refusing to shake the hand of President Abdullah Gül's headscarved wife, Hayrünnisa Gül, during an official ceremony in 2007.

More than 10 generals and admirals have been arrested over the last month as part of the same probe. Currently, 72 people have been jailed as part of the Feb. 28 coup probe. The prosecutors have so far heard from 70 victims of the Feb. 28 coup.

On Feb. 28, 1997, the Turkish military forced the coalition government led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP) out of power, citing alleged rising religious fundamentalism in the country. The Feb. 28 coup brought a series of severe restrictions on religious life, including an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of headscarves by women at university campuses and in positions of public service.

The military was also purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups and even officers who were simply observant Muslims. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down after a National Security Council (MGK) decision called for closer monitoring of media outlets.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç spoke to reporters about the latest wave of testimonies in the Feb. 28 probe and said he finds the investigation “important.” “This is a matter being dealt with by the judiciary. We need to follow it [developments] through. I hope the matter will be completed following a case to be launched after the investigation is completed,” he stated.

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