Turkey's Constitutional Court will assess an appeal by the nephew of a minister who was hanged following the 1960 coup, after a lower court rejected a lawsuit against coup leaders, citing the statute of limitations.
Hasan Serdar Bilir, nephew of former Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan, who was hanged by the coup leaders along with Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu after the coup, had earlier filed a lawsuit against the surviving coup leaders in 2013. In March, a court ruled that the lawsuit cannot proceed due to a 30-year statute of limitations. Bilir objected, claiming the time limit should have started from 1990, the year when the state restored the honor of Menderes, Polatkan and Zorlu.
On May 27, 1960, a group of high-ranking military officers toppled the Democrat Party (DP) government in a coup 37 years after the founding of modern Turkey. Their excuse for the coup was that the ruling party was leading Turkey to a regime of oppression and down a path of political turmoil. The DP, under the leadership of Menderes, was the first democratically elected party to win elections during the early history of the fledgling Republic long ruled by a de facto party established by the Republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Menderes and his colleagues were charged with crimes, including high treason and misuse of public funds, and were subsequently arrested. They were imprisoned on Yassıada, an island in the Sea of Marmara, where they were tried for the abovementioned charges at a trial that took place between October 1960 and September 1961. Zorlu and Polatkan were hanged on Sept. 16, 1961, and Menderes was hanged a day later.
If the Constitutional Court, the highest judicial authority, greenlights an investigation into the coup leaders, the case will be added to lawsuits against other coups. Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya, two leaders of the 1980 coup, were sentenced to life last year though both men died while in hospital before they were sent to prison. A trial on officers involved in the 1997 coup is still underway with all arrested officers released pending trial.