An Ankara court released its 3,833-page verdict in its entirety late Tuesday on the trial over the Feb.28, 1997 coup. The detailed verdict highlights a secret alliance of defendants, mostly generals, to topple the government and how they carried out psychological warfare to defame practising Muslims.
In April, 21 suspects, including retired Chief of Staff Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı and his deputy Çevik Bir were handed down aggravated life imprisonment by the Fifth High Criminal Court in the capital Ankara in the coup trial. The convicted were the main actors of the so-called "postmodern coup" that forced a coalition government to collapse after a military ultimatum on Feb.28. The primary target of the coup which was engineered by the country's secular elite, were practising Muslims and the detailed verdict explains how coup plotters recruited like-minded groups for their campaign against the government and the pious community in general.
"It is understood that some defendants formed a secret alliance to topple the government. Their actions are linked to the forcible resignation of the government and they acted in unison to achieve it," the verdict says. The army was putting pressure on then Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and his Refah (Welfare) Party over "secular concerns" after Erbakan took them by surprise with his election to office, the first time for a party supported by conservative Muslims who felt excluded from politics.Within the scope of the February 28 ultimatum, the "Batı Çalışma Grubu" (West Study Group) was founded by the army. It was chaired by Bir and its purpose was to "fight reactionary forces" according to accusations in the case. Briefings on secularism were given, particularly to judges, civil servants and media executives, by members of the military. Repressive measures on religious segments of society were tightened, including a ban on headscarves at universities. A great number of civil servants were fired. Heavy censorship was imposed on the media, and opposition journalists were fired. The court's detailed verdict says Batı Çalışma Grubu carried out activities that lacked legal basis. It says that the group actively monitored political parties, associations, media outlets and companies and sought to blacklist anyone contradicting their mindset and employed media to "change public perception." The verdict adds that it exerted pressure on lawmakers and political parties and committed criminal acts.
The West Study Group also orchestrated rallies against the government as part of its psychological warfare methods and used media to defame people through news stories, including then-Istanbul mayor and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Bekir Yıldız, mayor of capital Ankara's Sincan district. It was in Sincan that the generals ordered a parade of tanks, a few weeks before February 28, in an apparent show of force in response to an event hosted by Sincan municipality. The municipality's "Jerusalem Night" event in support of Palestinians preceding the tank parade was viewed as "a reactionary move" by the secular elite.
The detailed verdict says the West Study Group was also behind news stories stigmatizing religious community including a police raid on a spiritual leader and stories of false imams, trying to paint an evil image about practising Muslims.