Conflict & Justice

Turkey to try former generals for coup


An exhibition show photos of Turkish victims of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup in Ankara.


Adem Altan

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey may be one step closer to coming to grips with its coup-filled past. On Tuesday, the Turkish state news agency, AA, reported that the State Prosecutors have completed their investigation into the Sept. 12, 1980 coup and that an indictment has been submitted to the Criminal Court.

The Ankara-based State Prosecutors indictment lists retired General Kenan Evren and retired General Tahsin Sahinkaya as suspects in acts against the state. The indictment asks that two high-ranking officials be given life sentences without possibility of parole, according to AA.

Evren was the military chief of staff at the time of the 1980 coup. After the junta took over he became the 7th president of the Turkish Republic.

The possibility of trying the members of the junta has been controversial, with some speculating that the statute of limitations is already up for crimes related to the coup. That is not the case according to head special prosecutor Huseyin Gorusen.

"We, as the prosecution do not believe that the statute of limitations has been reached," he said. He also said that the indictment focuses solely on the coup and that "there are different investigations into alleged incidences of torture" during that time period.

The 1980 coup is one of Turkey's darkest chapters. Although the coup itself was carried out bloodlessly, hundreds of people executed for political crimes, tens of thousands were jailed, many were tortured and civilian politics was disrupted for two years.

And Turkey is still suffering from the consequences. After the junta suspended the civilian constitution of 1961, the generals wrote a new constitution with little regard to human rights that was approved by a dubious referendum.

The current government is now trying to draft a new constitution after having received a large mandate after a constitutional reform package passed easily on the 30th anniversary of the coup in 2010.