Former top soldiers on trial for the ‘post-modern coup’ of 1997
Prosecutors demanded an aggravated life sentence for Turkey’s former chief of staff Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı and 60 others for the Feb 28, 1997 military memorandum that led to the eventual fall of the country’s elected government.
Retired generals and top bureaucrats are accused of establishing a clandestine organisation, called the Western Working Group, to classify politicians, state officials and intellectuals according to their religious affiliation and monitor them for supposed Islamist or anti-secularist activities.
Besides Karadayı, the list of defendants includes former deputy-chief of staff Gen. Çevik Bir, former commander of the first army Gen. Çetin Doğan, and former head of Higher Education Board (YÖK) Kemal Gürüz.
On Feb 28, 1997 Turkey’s military leadership issued a memorandum against political Islam at the National Security Council meeting.
Their demands from the coalition government, led by the Islamist Welfare Party, included shutting down of religious schools and abolition of sectarian groups.
Necmettin Erbakan, Turkey’s prime minister at the time, was forced to resign, and his party was closed by the Constitutional Court a year after for violating the principle of secularism.
Turkey’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was the mayor of Istanbul for Erbakan’s party, was given a 10-month prison sentence (of which he served four months in 1999) and was banned from politics for reciting an Islamist poem at a public speech.
Erdoğan later founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, initially with no official position due to his ban. He was elected to parliament in 2003 and gained the AKP leadership following legal changes made possible by the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).