The Justice Ministry will organize an official event on Saturday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Turkish coup d'etat on Democracy and Freedom Island, near Istanbul.
During the event, themed "From Guardianship to Democracy: National Will Symposium," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to deliver a speech against military coups.
Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, the Great Union Party (BBP) leader Mustafa Destici and the Democratic Party (DP) leader Gültekin Uysal are among the politicians expected to attend the event.
Academics, lawyers and experts will discuss the coup, its prelude and aftermath, as well as its results, impacts and legacy during the sessions at the symposium.
Considered as a disgrace to the history of Turkish democracy, the Sept. 12 coup marked the third time – after 1960 and 1971 – the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) took hold of the democratically elected government and declared a state of emergency.
Thousands of people were unlawfully detained and even tortured to death, the constitution was suspended and political parties were closed while their leaders were questioned, prosecuted and imprisoned.
Over 230,000 people have been tried in 210,000 military tribunals and 517 of these received the death penalty while the citizenship of 14,000 people was revoked.
According to reports, 171 people died as a result of torture during interrogation while 30,000 people were dismissed from their duties. Some newspapers were also prevented from publishing for 300 days. Additionally, over a million people were blacklisted and 98,404 people were tried on charges of being members of leftist, rightist, nationalist, conservative and other similar ideological organizations.
In 2010, on the 30th anniversary of former President Kenan Evren's claim to the office through a military coup, the public voted in a referendum on a series of amendments to the constitution, including the lifting of his immunity from prosecution. Human rights activists rushed to petition courts for Evren's prosecution the following day.
The trial against Evren and then Commander of Air Forces Tahsin Şahinkaya, the only surviving members of the junta at the time, began in April 2012. Both men were too ill to attend but gave brief statements to the court through a video link system from their hospital beds. They were sentenced to life in prison and stripped of their ranks in a court decision in 2014. Both Evren and Şahinkaya died in 2015 while the appeal process was ongoing, leading to the cancellation of the cases with their verdicts not being applied.
Preferring the Democracy and Freedom Island as the location for the upcoming event also bears a special meaning. Earlier this year, Yassıada, the symbol of one of the darkest eras in the history of the republic, has been rebranded as a beacon of democracy and freedom. Renamed Democracy and Freedom Island after its transformation over the past few years, new facilities on the island were opened on the 60th anniversary of the 1960 coup.
The 1960 coup had paved the way for future coups and coup attempts as the military, which viewed itself for a long time as the sole custodian of democracy, overthrew governments they did not like. Following the coup, a military court tried Adnan Menderes, the nation's first democratically elected prime minister, along with two leading members of the Democrat Party (DP), resulting in their executions the following year.
Menderes and two of his ministers, Hasan Polatkan and Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, were three of the 15 sentenced to death at the trials held on Yassıada, which was a no-go zone for decades. While the rest were pardoned, the death sentences of the three leading politicians were carried out on the nearby Imralı Island soon after the decisions were handed down by military tribunals.