“I was a [state] minister during the overthrow of the Refah-Yol [coalition] government of the time, but I was not a MGK member. So, my signature is not on those MGK decisions. As those decisions were not brought to the Cabinet and no Cabinet decisions were taken later, my signature is not on them. But, of course, I am one of those who experienced those times,” he said in response to a reporter who claimed his signature appeared on documents authorizing actions taken after an MGK meeting on Feb. 28, 1997.
He was speaking during a press conference held on Monday at Esenboğa International Airport in Ankara before his departure for the Netherlands for an official visit. Also commenting on a recent investigation launched into the actors of the Feb. 28 coup, dubbed a postmodern coup as it was bloodless and unarmed, Gül said there is nothing unusual about the probe as it was an “interim period” when Turkish democracy was interrupted.
“It would not be correct to make further comments as the [legal] case has begun. The judiciary will certainly do its job and will investigate any illegality, if there is any,” he said.
On Feb. 28, 1997, the MGK made several decisions during a meeting at which it strongly criticized the government and claimed that Refah-Yol, a coalition government led by the Welfare Party (RP) and which included the True Path Party (DYP), had failed to take the necessary measures to fight what the army called reactionaryism.
The decisions were then presented to then prime minister and RP leader Necmettin Erbakan for approval. Erbakan was forced to sign off on the military council's decrees. He subsequently resigned, handing over the Prime Ministry to his coalition partner, Tansu Çiller.
The decisions taken at the MGK meeting on Feb. 28 and signed by Prime Minister Erbakan were interpreted by many at the time as the military interfering, thus inhibiting the basis for democracy. 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 purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups.
In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down after the coup based on the MGK's decision to more closely monitor media outlets. Last week, an Ankara prosecutor issued detention warrants for 31 suspects in investigation into the postmodern coup; 18 have already been arrested.