Today marks the start of the trial of 103 suspects accused of attempting to force out the government in the February 28 coup. On February 28, 1997, the military-dominated National Security Council issued a stern warning to Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, accusing his government of policies undermining the secular constitution. Commentators dubbed the episode Turkey's "post-modern coup" as the generals used pressure behind the scenes to force Erbakan to resign four months later.
The hearings, which are being held in an enlarged courthouse, expanded by tearing down the wall between Ankara's 10th and 11th High Criminal Courts, will be recorded with a sound and visual recording system set up by the Ministry of Justice Information Technologies Department. All footage will be transcribed and later handed over to the related parties. Today's session starts with the verification of the suspects' identities and the reading of the indictment, a task taken on by two presenters from the state television station TRT. The hearings, which will commence with the testimonies of the case's detained suspects, will continue until September 6.
GÜRÜZ IS THE SOLE CIVILIAN SUSPECT
During the investigation resulting in the detainment of 76 suspects, including retired generals Çevik Bir, Erdal Ceylanoğlu, Çetin Doğan, Teoman Koman, Fevzi Türkeri, Major General Erol Özkasnak, retired Lieutenant General Kamuran Orhon, MHP Istanbul Deputy Engin Alan as well as the former President of Turkey's Higher Education Board (YÖK) Kemal Gürüz, who is also the only civilian detainee, Colonel Mehmet Haşimoğlu passed away at GATA hospital, where he was receiving treatment.
NUMBER ONE SUSPECT
Former Chief of General Staff İsmail Hakkı Karadayı is the prime suspect in the 1,300-page indictment, followed by Bir as the number two leading suspect and Özkasnak who is considered the third key player in the Feb. 28th era. Karadayı was initially transferred to court with a request for his arrest; however, the former top military brass was released pending trial because of a medical condition.
In 2012, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched a probe into the military actors that commandeered the February 28th coup and delivered the lengthy indictment for the case to Ankara's 13 High Criminal Court on May 22, 2013. The indictment demands aggravated life imprisonment for 103 suspects for their involvement in attempting to forcibly overthrow the government of the Turkish Republic. Fourteen operations have been staged thus far in connection to the February 28 coup.
The case, which has a total 438 aggrieved parties, 199 of which are soldiers, cites Tansu Çiller, who was deputy prime minister in Erbakan's coalition government, as being the leading victim. The court has released 38 suspects, while the detainment of 37 others continues.