Bir made these statements at the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court on Monday before he was sent to Sincan Prison in Ankara.
The BÇG, a clandestine group formed within the military in order to contribute to the staging of the planned coup, categorized politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats in accordance with their religious and ideological backgrounds. The BÇG produced six wet-ink documents that took the form of action plans. The BÇG was founded to fight “reactionaryism” in Turkey.
The Feb. 28 military intervention, known as a post-modern coup and carried out without the use of arms, began on Feb. 2, 1997, and unfolded in a process that resulted in the resignation of the Refah-Yol -- a combination of the names of the Welfare Party (RP) and the True Path Party (DYP) -- coalition government in June of the same year.
In his brief defense in court, Bir acknowledged the existence of the BÇG documents, on which his signature appears as the then-deputy chief of General Staff; however, he claimed that the BÇG was a legal body that acted upon the orders of the government.
“We protected the government against reactionaryism. We implemented the decisions of the National Security Council [MGK]. I attended only two of the briefings on reactionaryism at the General Staff; I did not attend the others,” he said.
Uneasy with a conservative party -- the RP -- in government, the General Staff began briefing members of the judiciary, university rectors and journalists on religious fundamentalism at its headquarters in early 1997. The MGK made several decisions during a meeting on Feb. 28 and presented them to then-Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan for approval. Erbakan was forced to sign the proposals.
In court Bir also voiced his surprise at the investigation, saying, “Who would have thought I would see this day at the age of 73?”
When asked about the tanks rolling through the streets of Sincan on Feb. 4, 1997 as an “open warning” to the government, he said it was out of the question for him or any member of the TSK to have used force or violence at the time.
In court, Bir retracted one of the statements he had made during his interrogation by prosecutors over the weekend and said: “Our colleagues' actions went to extremes. The measures taken remained on paper.”
Bir's lawyer, Vahap Bozkurt, defended his client and the MGK's proposals of the time. He said the cabinet that convened on March 13, 1997 decided to implement the decisions taken at the MGK meeting on Feb. 28 and that the BÇG was established according to decisions taken by the MGK and the cabinet.
“Neither my client nor any TSK member used any force or violence. The goal of the MGK's decisions taken by the government of the time aimed to take the necessary measures against reactionaryism, contrary to the accusations directed at my client. The prime minister of the time, Necmettin Erbakan, resigned of his own will and said he handed the prime ministry over to his coalition partner, Tansu Çiller, in line with the agreement they hade made. However, there was a change of government because then President Süleyman Demirel granted the authority to establish a government to Mesut Yılmaz. If Çiller had become the prime minister in line with the agreement between her and Erbakan, the government of the time would have continued serving,” he said.