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Turkey Issues Arrest Warrants For Ex-Generals Over 1997 Coup

Turkey on Thursday issued arrest warrants for several former Generals suspected of being behind the 1997 coup that toppled an Islamist-led government.

The warrants were issued after police searched the home premises of retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the February 28, 1997 military intervention, and 30 other former military officers in Istanbul, Ankara and Çanakkale as part of the investigation into the coup. They also raided the houses of retired Generals Abdullah Kiliçarslan and Idris Koralp, the Turkish media reported.

Special Prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili is conducting the investigation into the actions of Generals of that time, including the then Chief of General Staff Gen. Ismail Hakki Karadayi, National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General Gen. Tuncer Kilinç and former Land Forces Commander Gen. Erdal Ceylanoglu.

The probe was launched after hundreds of complaints were filed by plaintiffs from different provinces across Turkey. Most of them are individuals who say they were victimized by the February 28 process.

The 1997 unarmed military intervention led by Gen. Bir resulted in the fall of the coalition government led by Necmettin Erbakan of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP). In reference to the coup attempt, which was termed a "soft coup," Gen. Bir has said on several occasions that they "made a balance check for democracy."

Bir was also the alleged mastermind behind a 1998 memorandum that targeted several journalists and institutions with the intention to intimidate and cause them to lose their jobs.

The coup leaders introduced a series of harsh restrictions on religious life, with an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of the Islamic headscarf. The military was purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups, the reports said.

Besides, a number of newspapers were closed down after the coup based on an MGK decision that required closer monitoring of media outlets. However, none of the military figures who had a hand in overthrowing the RP government have stood trial.

Commenting on the investigation, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said on Thursday that the probe was part of "Turkey's efforts to prevent any suspension of democracy."

However, principal Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu was critical of the investigation. "You cannot seek justice with feelings of revenge. If you seek justice with feeling of revenge, there cannot be justice there," he said, accusing the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for seeking revenge for the coup.

by RTT Staff Writer

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