Turkish media hails 1980 coup trial
ANKARA THE trial of the two surviving leaders of the 1980 military coup in Turkey was hailed by the media on Thursday as a landmark case that served as a critical reminder of the country’s coup-marred history.
“Never again!” declared the headline in the liberal daily Taraf, saying the case showed that Turkey was finally coming to grips with the bloody coup that traumatised the political scene 32 years ago.
The trial of Kenan Evren, the junta leader and selfappointed president, and Tahsin Sahinkaya, then air force commander, resumed for a second day Thursday at an Ankara court with the two defendants again absent for medical reasons.
The opening session on Wednesday lasted nine hours, much longer than a usual hearing, but the indictment against the generals has not been read out because of their absence and they have not entered any pleas.
Evren, 94, and Sahinkaya, 86, risk life in prison if they are found guilty of “crimes against the state,” the most severe punishment since Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002.
On Thursday, the court heard testimony from some victims of the coup, including a 104-year-old Kurdish woman whose son went missing after a police interrogation in eastern Kars province, a month after the generals seized power on September 12, 1980. “If I can come here, they can too. I cannot forgive them for what they did,” said Berfo Kirbayir, who left the courtroom in a wheelchair.
Evren broke his arm in a fall a few days ago at a military hospital in Ankara, where he is recovering from intestinal surgery, while the Turkish media says Sahinkaya is being treated at an Istanbul military hospital for Parkinson’s disease.
On Wednesday, a lawyer for the plantiffs urged the judges to bring Evren to court “in a cage or a stretcher” if necessary, like former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
The military, which has long seen itself as the guarantor of secularism in Turkey, staged three coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980 as well as pressuring an Islamist-rooted government to relinquish power in 1997.
But the 1980 coup was the bloodiest of them all. Fifty people were executed, more than half a million arrested and dozens died under torture while many others were reported missing over the next three years.
The trial became possible after constitutional reforms in 2010, which revoked an article giving immunity to those responsible for coups.