An ongoing investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern military coup deepened further on Tuesday when a prosecutor’s office in Ankara issued detention warrants for 17 more active duty and retired military officers
Detention warrants were issued for 17 more active duty and retired military officers as well as one civilian on Tuesday in the fourth wave of operations in the probe. Retired Gen. Çetin Saner was also among them. He was detained in his İzmir home early Tuesday morning. Saner was the head of military intelligence at the time of the 1997 coup. He is believed to have threatened Interior Minister Meral Akşener with “impaling” her in the event that the generals came to power in order to make the minister “toe the line.”
A written statement from the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday noted that detention warrants were issued for 17 individuals and searches were being carried out at 15 different addresses across nine provinces; four in Ankara, three in İstanbul, two in İzmir and one in each of the provinces of Kars, Erzincan, Denizli, Kocaeli, Balıkesir and Uşak.
Ten of the individuals for whom detention warrants were issued are retired military officers, one of them is a retired civil servant, while six of them are active-duty military officers, said the statement from the prosecutor's office.
The detention warrants were issued for the suspects in accordance with the relevant article of the Turkish Penal Code over charges of attempting to topple the government of the Turkish Republic, added the statement.
The suspects are all accused of playing a major role in the Feb. 28 coup, when the military forced a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party, the Welfare Party (RP), out of power on the grounds that there was rising religious fundamentalism in the country.
In İstanbul, police teams searched the houses of retired Gen. Çetin Dizdar, retired Staff Col. Ardan Kıratlı, retired Col. Ahmet Mithat Kiziroğlu, retired Staff Col. Erkan Yaykır and the houses of brigadier generals Celalettin Bacanlı and Mehmet Ali Yıldırım. İstanbul Bar Association President Ümit Kocasakal accompanied the police search at Kiziroğlu’s house. Dizdar and Kiziroğlu were detained after the searches of their houses were completed and they were taken to İstanbul Police Department.
Police teams also searched the house of retired lieutenant generals Hakkı Kılınç and Mustafa Bıyık in Ankara. Kılınç’s neighbors hanged Turkish flags on their balconies as police teams were searching the retired general’s house. Kılınç was detained.
Searches were also made at the Denizli 11th Motorized Infantry Brigade Command. Teams from İzmir Police Department’s counterterrorism unit began searching the facility early on Tuesday morning. Commander of Denizli 11th Motorized Infantry Brigade Command Brig. Gen. Metin Keşap, for whom a detention warrant was issued on Tuesday, turned himself in at İzmir general military headquarters. Keşap who was a colonel at the time of the 1997 coup allegedly was a member of the controversial West Study Group (BÇG).
The house of retired noncommissioned officer Abdullah Hoşgür, located in Kocaeli’s Gölcük district, was also searched on Tuesday. Police teams did not find anything worth seizing at Hoşgür’s house. The retired noncommissioned officer was detained in the western province of Aydın where he was on Tuesday.
Another retired noncommissioned officer, Asım Atak, was detained in Uşak following a five-hour police search at his house. Atak was taken to Ankara for interrogation.
The fourth wave of the Feb. 28 investigation also reached the eastern provinces of Erzincan where police teams searched the house of Maj. Gen. Berkay Turgut and the house of Maj. Gen. Mehmet Faruk Alpaydın, commander of the Sarıkamış 9th Motorized Infantry Brigade Command in Kars. Turgut was detained and taken to Ankara.
One of the suspects Tanju Veli Aydın, who reportedly worked as a civil servant at the Gölcük Navy Command, was detained in Balıkesir’s Ayvalık district after a police team searched his home. Aydın was also reported to be a suspect in the case into Ergenekon, a shadowy crime network which has alleged links within the state and is suspected of plotting to topple the government. During the search of the house, which included computer experts, Aydın’s computer was seized. The suspect was first taken to İzmir and then to Ankara for interrogation.
No searches were made in the houses of Lt. Gen. Tevfik Özkılıç and Maj. Gen. Erdal Şenel, for whom detention warrants were issued as part of the Feb. 28 probe on Tuesday, because Özkılıç’s house had already been searched as part of the Sledgehammer coup case and Şenel’s house had been searched as part of the Ergenekon case.
The house of Maj. Gen. Cevat Temel Özkaynak for whom a detention warrant was also issued on Tuesday could not be searched because Özkaynak was abroad.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli who commented on the fourth wave of the Feb. 28 investigation on Tuesday said the investigation should continue until stability is achieved.
“We hope that Turkey will no longer face similar incidents,” Bahçeli told reporters following his party’s parliamentary group meeting.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç also commented on the developments regarding the Feb. 28 probe on Tuesday and called for the completion of the investigation as soon as possible.
“Both as a jurist and politician, I would like to see the completion of an indictment if there will be one or a ruling on the lack of grounds for legal action [for the suspects] as soon as possible. This is an important issue. I think the investigation should be completed as soon as possible if there will be new detentions,” Arınç said during a program on the TRT News channel.
Erdoğan also made similar remarks and complained about the Feb. 28 investigation process, saying that this issue should not take a long time. He told reporters at Ankara airport on Tuesday night after his Italy visit that “so-called first, second, third, fourth waves [of raids and arrests] damage peace among public and said his government is seriously concerned about “these waves.”
He said these tandem waves could drown the country, subtly criticizing the way the investigation is handled. Erdoğan also declined to say whether or not he will seek co-plaintiff status once the indictment of the investigation is ready.
Thirty-nine people were earlier arrested in the first three operations in the Feb. 28 investigation last month. Those sent to jail include retired Gen. Çevik Bir, who is known to have played a major role in the 1997 coup, and retired Gen. Erol Özkasnak, the secretary-general of the General Staff at the time. Özkasnak is known to have played a major role in the coup generals’ communication with the media in order to put pressure on the government to resign.
Reportedly at the heart of the Feb. 28 investigation are the actions of the BÇG, which was established within the military to categorize politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats according to their religious and ideological backgrounds before and after the coup. Bir, the deputy chief of General Staff at the time, was the head of the BÇG.
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 or even officers who were simply observant Muslims. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down after the coup based on an National Security Council (MGK) decision that called for closer monitoring of media outlets.