News / Europe

    Two Leaders of Turkey's 1980 Coup Indicted

    Kenan Evren, the leader of Sept. 12, 1980 military coup, arrives to cast his vote in a referendum in Ankara, Turkey. (File Photo - September 12, 2010)
    Kenan Evren, the leader of Sept. 12, 1980 military coup, arrives to cast his vote in a referendum in Ankara, Turkey. (File Photo - September 12, 2010)
    Dorian Jones

    In Turkey, the two surviving leaders of a 1980 military coup have been charged with crimes against the state. The move is seen by many as an important step in the country facing up to its dark past of military rule.

    The leader of the 1980 Turkish coup, retired general Kenan Evren, and a co-conspirator, former air force chief Tahsin Sahinkaya, have been indicted by an Ankara court on crimes against the state.

    Reaction

    In Taksim Square in the center of Istanbul, the scene of a massacre preceding the coup, there is mixed reaction from people to the indictments.

    "He had made a coup, and lots of people had been tortured," said a passerby. "He killed lots of people. That is why have to prosecute him."

    "No, no, I do not agree," he added. "I believe in him because I lived those times, and I know what happened. Government should send him to court because he destroyed democracy.  Still people hate him. For example, my father was tortured by the soldiers."

    The generals seized power in 1980 after years of political unrest, which claimed hundreds of lives.  Prosecutors claim much of that unrest was incited by the army.

    Aftermath of coup

    The years of military rule that followed saw 50 people executed and hundreds of thousands more detained, many of whom were tortured. One of them was Defne Sandalye.

    "I was arrested twice after the coup d'etat," said Sandalye. "I spent most of my time at the interrogation center, which was the torture center. First time, I was there for a month, and then I was released, and then five months later, I was arrested again. Then I spent three-and-half months in the torture center."

    The indictment of the two surviving coup leaders comes as Turkey is finally facing up to its dark years of military rule.

    "It is important to do this because Turkish people are suffering from an historical amnesia, and they not very apt to facing their past," added Sandalye. "Also people easily surrender to authority here. For long years, no one questioned, nobody questioned what the army is capable of and what it has been doing."

    AK Party and army

    Throughout its decade rule, the Islamic-based AK Party has sought to bring the secularist army to heel. In 2010, constitutional reforms were passed in a referendum that lifted the immunity of the coup leaders.

    But the timing of the indictments against the coup leaders has raised some questions.

    "They should be prosecuted because they committed a crime, which cannot be legitimized nor justified," said political columnist Kadri Gurcel of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet. "But I see this one as a purely tactical step to divert the discussion, which will also change the agenda."

    The government is facing growing domestic and international criticism for its human-rights record. The European Union has been highly critical of Turkey's human rights and its judiciary. Ending the army's role in politics is one of the government's main human-rights goals as Turkey tries to gain EU membership.

    A significant step

    Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Bahcesehir University says whatever the motivations behind the prosecution of the coup leaders, it remains a significant step for Turkish democracy.

    "It is symbolic," said Aktar. "It is very important. That man [Evren] organized and chaired the junta. And he was having a beautiful life in the Turkish Riviera until now. I think it is high time for him to pay for his crimes. Because the 1980 coup did a great deal of damage to democratic life in this country, and we are still living with the consequences of this 1980 coup."

    The prosecutors have sought life imprisonment for the coup leaders - Kenan Evren, who is 94 years old, and Tahsin Sahinkaya, who is 86. For the victims of military rule, there is hope that those responsible will be held to account in court, something observers say was unthinkable only a few years ago.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora