In the most recent development, 29 retired military officers who are known to have played a major role in the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, which overthrew a government led by the conservative Welfare Party (RP), were detained on Thursday.
Commenting on the Thursday operation, some columnists argue that the judiciary should be careful not to act out of revenge and detain too many people while investigating the Feb. 28 coup, known as the postmodern coup, as Turkey has recently been shaken by criticism for an excessive number of detentions. Sabah’s Nazlı Ilıcak welcomes Thursday’s operation but also argues that the operations should not be too extensive. “Surely if we are going to call the Feb. 28 coup actors to account, we cannot exclude other people such as then-Chief of General Staff Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı and former Chief of General Staff Gen. Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu, who once said, ‘The Feb. 28 process will last a thousand years,’ talking about the impact of Feb. 28 on society. But on the other hand, in contrast to other coups, this coup was a psychological movement that received support from the media and NGOs. If we argue that the investigation should involve all of these supporters, the judiciary will come to such a complicated point that it won’t be able to settle the case. For example, we all know that a joint declaration against the RP was released by five NGOs. So are we going to declare these NGOs or some journalists who attended a briefing held by the General Staff coup supporters?” asks Ilıcak, adding that conditions in those days were very different than today, so we have to consider this fact while determining the extent of the investigation.
Taha Akyol from the Hürriyet daily points to the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) principle of moderation and says the investigation carried out into the Feb. 28 coup aims to bring the coup perpetrators to trial, not people who had ideological or political differences during that period. The focus should be on determining the people and institutions that acted unlawfully and to try them according to the law. “You may dislike and disagree with a democratically elected government; you may find it harmful to the country, secularism, nationalism or democracy. But as long as the people of a country get to elect the government through voting, no one may or can attempt to overthrow the government or to intervene in the practices of that government by using force. And if someone, or more specifically the military, created such chaos and fear in the country that many people had to seem to support the military’s coup attempt for the sake of their own good, then the blame must be put on those forcing them to act so,” he says. Just like it was wrong at that time to blacklist individuals according to their political and ideological stance, it would also be wrong today to adopt a vengeful stance and turn this investigation into a political operation. “As a journalist who was subjected to severe injustice during the Feb. 28 coup period, I have to say that, even though it will be difficult to do so, we, journalists, should follow developments regarding the investigation into the coup by keeping our emotions out of this,” warns Sabah columnist Mehmet Barlas. He indicates the main reason behind Turkey’s recent efforts to investigate past coups: “The principle reason for confronting past coups is to avoid possible future coups and deter people planning coups from doing so by punishing previous coup perpetrators. Basically, these efforts excite us not because they deal with past injustices but because they build up hope for the future.”