Ten Turkish generals referred to court for arrest in Feb. 28 probe

Ten Turkish generals referred to court for arrest in Feb. 28 probe

Ankara prosecutors have referred ten Turkish generals to court, requesting their arrest for their role in the Feb. 28, 1997 "post-modern coup" that forced a civilian government to resign, Today's Zaman reported.

Specially authorized Ankara Public Prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili and accompanying prosecutors referred retired Gen. Engin Alan, retired Gen. Cetin Dogan, retired Lt. Gen. Metin Yavuz Yalcın, Lt. Gen. Vural Avar, former Land Forces logistics commander retired Lt. Gen. Kamuran Orhon, retired Gen. Ahmet Corekci, who served as the air forces commander in the coup period, retired Gen. Teoman Koman, who served as the gendarmerie commander, former head of General Staff Plan and Principles, former National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General İlhan Kılıc, former Land Forces commander retired Gen. Hikmet Koksal to the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court for arrest.

The investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention has reached the former commanding echelon of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), with a number of retired force commanders and other generals being taken into custody in the fifth wave of operations on Monday.

However, Alan, Dogan and Yalcın are currently under arrest in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plan case. The Balyoz plan is believed to have been devised at a military gathering in 2003 and allegedly sought to undermine the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in order to lay the groundwork for a military takeover.

The suspects are all accused of playing a major role in the coup, in which the powerful Turkish military forced a coalition government, led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP), out of power.

Meanwhile, retired Col. Hakan Cemal Pelit, for whom the court earlier issued an arrest warrant but could not detain because he was abroad, also surrendered on Monday. Pelit was also referred to the court for arrest.

For many observers, Monday's operation has come as a severe blow to the upper echelon of the clandestine West Study Group (BCG) as those summoned to testify are known to be top members of the group. The BCG was formed within the TSK in order to contribute to the staging of the Feb. 28 coup. The group reportedly categorized politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats in accordance with their religious and ideological backgrounds before and after the coup.

Over 50 people have already been jailed during the first four waves of arrests in the Feb. 28 investigation. Those sent to jail include Gen. Cevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the 1997 coup, and retired Gen. Erol Ozkasnak, who was the secretary-general of the General Staff at the time. Ozkasnak is also known to have played a major role in the coup generals' communication with the media, which was used in order to put pressure on the government to resign.

The Feb. 28 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 also purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups as well as officers who were simply observant Muslims. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down after the coup, based on an MGK decision that called for closer monitoring of media outlets.

Among all the suspects taken into custody on Monday, former gendarmerie commander retired Gen. Koman seems to be the most controversial due to his activities during the period he remained in office. He came to prominence shortly after the coalition government led by the RP was swept into power in the 1995 general elections. Speaking to the press around two months after the elections, Koman said, "Even a coup could be staged if they [the RP-led coalition government] continue their activities." With the "activities", the retired general was referring to the alleged acts of fundamentalism sponsored by the RP. On Feb. 28, 1997, the military forced the government to step down on the grounds that there was religious fundamentalism in the country.

Also recently, a secret witness in the Ergenekon coup case, referred to as Kıskac (Pincer), testified to a prosecutor and claimed that the Gendarmerie Intelligence Group Command (JİTEM) -- an illegal unit established inside the gendarmerie to fight separatist terrorism -- was set up by Koman contrary to earlier claims that it was set up by a retired colonel, Arif Dogan. "Whoever says that JİTEM does not exist is a liar. JİTEM was not set up by Dogan. It was set up by Koman. It was an armed group, but was later abolished," the witness reportedly told the prosecutor.

The JİTEM is believed to be responsible for the killing of thousands of people in eastern and southeastern parts of Turkey in the 1990s as part of the fight against terrorism. The Turkish military consistently denied the existence of JİTEM in the past despite a growing body of evidence suggesting its existence.

Koman served as the commander of the gendarmerie between 1995 and 1997 and undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) from 1988 to 1992.

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