Turkish coup wounds remain unhealed

ISTANBUL – Several thousand Turks protested Tuesday morning in front of the court house in the Turkish capital of Ankara, where the trial of two leaders of the military coup of 1980 started. They demanded that the coup plotters be held responsible for their actions. As well, they don’t only want the leaders of the coup to be tried, but also the accomplices.

For now, only the two leaders who are still alive are being prosecuted, general Kenan Evren and the commander in chief of the air force at the time, Tahsin Sahinkaya. Both men were not present in the courthouse. They are respectively 94 and 96 years old and are living in a hospital.

After the coup an estimated 650,000 people were taken into custody, most of them were tortured severely. Mostly leftist people and politicians and Kurds were the victims, but also right wing and religious people. During the demonstration recognition was demanded for victims of diverse political colours.

The demonstrators carried portraits of victims. In front of many TV cameras sometimes emotional testimonies were given about the horrors of the military take-over. Victims and their families are angry that the trial is only taking place now, and that their call for prosecutions and a thorough investigation wasn’t heard earlier. Because the perpetrators were always protected, the deep wound could never heal. At the start of the court hearing it was very crowded in the public gallery. People refused the offer of the judge to take a seat on the empty chairs reserved for the suspects.

Prosecution of the coup perpetrators was impossible before because of the constitution the military rulers wrote, in which they were safeguarded from prosecution. Only in 2010 was the constitution changed and prosecution became possible. Only then the power of the army was reduced enough for the government not to be afraid anymore of repercussions from the army.

The prosecutor started an investigation and decided in January that there would be a trial. Evren and Sahinkaya are being charged with overthrowing the parliament and the constitutional order. Both victims and human rights organisations want the men to be tried as well for the widespread torture after the military take-over.

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