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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs