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Turkey Detains Ex-Generals Over 1977 Coup

In a major operation, Turkey on Thursday detained 29 retired military officers including three Generals and a Colonel as part of an investigation into the 1997 bloodless coup that brought down a government led by an Islamist-leaning party.

The arrested included Gen. Çevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the February 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention. They were detained after extensive searches at their homes in capital Ankara and dozens of premises in three provinces.

Gen. Idris Koralp, Gen. Ünal Akbulut and Col. Yüksel Sönmez were the other ex-military brass detained in the operation. Two retired Colonels - Eser Sahan and Cengiz Çetinkaya - could not be held as both were out of the country, Turkish media reports said.

The probe was launched by special prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili in November last after hundreds of complaints were filed by people victimized consequent to the unarmed military intervention that resulted in the fall of the coalition government led by Necmettin Erbakan of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP).

Bir is accused of masterminding the "soft coup" which he said was for "making a balance check for democracy."

The coup 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. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down following harassment. 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 the probe was part of "Turkey's efforts to prevent any suspension of democracy." However, main 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 feelings of revenge, there cannot be justice there," he said and accused the government headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of seeking revenge for the coup.

by RTT Staff Writer

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