World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkey was shaken on Thursday with the news that former army chief İsmail Hakkı Karadayı had been called to testify to prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili as a suspect in the investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 coup.
Columnists say they had expected such a move as retired Gen. Çevik Bir had previously pointed to Karadayı and said he knew and approved the coup plans at the time.
Nazlı Ilıcak from Sabah underlines that the prosecutor who called Karadayı to testify was not a specially authorized prosecutor. She writes: "We all know that detention decisions are too easily made or often violations of rights are made while trying individuals in Turkey. Some journalists discovered these flaws in the law with the trials into the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer coup plans, which are overseen by specially authorized courts. And then they declared these courts as scapegoats. What will these journalists, who keep saying specially authorized courts or prosecutors act “illegally,” say about the decision to call Karadayı to testify now?” Ilıcak thinks it is right to seek Karadayı's testimony. If keeping tabs on people and manipulating the media and judiciary are regarded as crimes and if a former deputy chief of General Staff has been detained on charges of these crimes, the then-chief of General Staff should not get away with this, she notes.
Oral Çalışlar from Radikal, on the other hand, writes that although he was one of the victims of the Feb. 28, 1997 coup, he thinks he should still defend the rights of the Feb. 28 coup plotters. Bir and then-General Staff Secretary-General Erol Özkasnak have been jailed for 10 months even though an indictment against them has not yet been prepared. Recalling the “First execute, then try” slogan Çalışlar and his friends would chant in coup periods in protest of the act, the columnist says the same practice is continuing now. “I have always defended the idea that the coup plotters should render their accounts to the judiciary, and I see the trials into coups as a breakthrough in Turkey's democratization process. But we have to carry out these trials in a reasonable and careful way, while watching out for the suspects' basic rights as well as the public's expectations,” he notes.
It is no surprise that Karadayı was called to testify, as jailed generals like Bir have accused him, Bugün's Adem Yavuz Arslan says. Also, in five different voice recordings that were released on the Internet in 2009, Karadayı explicitly talks about how he had a role in the coups of May 27, 1960, Sept. 12, 1980 and Feb. 28, 1997 -- and how he threatened political party heads or manipulated presidents.
Arslan further makes a distinction between the Feb. 28 trial and the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials, saying that the trials in the second group progress with the evidence obtained and suspects emerge as more evidence is found. However, in the Feb. 28 trial, the witnesses, victims and actors in the coup are all known, and they will be called to testify one by one. So just as the call for Karadayı's testimony was not surprising, more calls or even detentions may come, he says.