Elderly Turkish Coup Leaders Face Trial

Posted April 4th, 2012 at 11:35 am (UTC-5)
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Turkey's landmark trial of retired generals Kenan Evren and Thasin Sahinkaya opened Wednesday, more than three decades after they led a coup that brought torture, executions and disappearances.

The 94-year-Evren and the 87-year-old Sahinkaya are both in poor health and did not attend. They are charged with crimes against the state and could face life in prison if convicted.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Ankara Wednesday, demanding justice. Demonstrators waved flags and held up the names of victims.

Some Turks initially saw Evren as a hero following the 1980 coup, crediting him with putting an end to fighting between left-wing and right-wing groups that had threatened to push Turkey into civil war. But Evren and the other coup leaders soon shut down parliament, suspended the constitution and disbanded political parties.

By the time Evren and Sahinkaya returned power to a civilian government three years later, about half-a-million people had been arrested, hundreds of people had been tortured and 50 people had been executed. Hundreds of other Turks disappeared.

Evren later went on to serve as prime minister and is remembered for asking, “Should we feed the terrorists instead of hanging them?”

One protester told reporters, “Now I am asking him, 'Should we feed you in prison for years instead of hanging?' Things have changed now.”

Turkey's parliament is among 350 groups and individuals who have applied to be co-plaintiffs in the trial.

Turkey's prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, says his government will follow this case closely. He said “I hope the outcome will be in favor of our people and democracy.”

Both Evren and Sahinkaya had been given immunity, but that immunity was stripped last year.

4. (Turkish) PLAINTIFF, YILMA DURAK, SAYING:

“This (case) is not enough. How can it be? We went

through dark times. Those were extraordinary days. This

might be a consolidation but it is not enough.''

5. (Turkish) PROTESTER, MUSLUM CALI, SAYING:

“General Evren was saying “should we feed them in prison for years instead of hanging them?'' Now, I am asking him – should we feed you in prison for years instead of hanging? Things have changed now.''