Elderly Turkish Coup Leaders Face Trial

Posted April 4th, 2012 at 5:45 am (UTC-5)
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Retired Turkish generals Kenan Evren and Thasin Sahinkaya are on trial, more than three decades after leading a coup that led to years of torture, executions and disappearances.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Ankara Wednesday, demanding justice and for more of the coup leaders to be brought to justice.

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.

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 remember for asking, “Should we feed the terrorists instead of hanging them?”

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

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