World Bulletin / News Desk
A newly discovered letter written by then-President Süleyman Demirel to then-Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan ahead of the Feb. 28, 1997 military coup shows that Demirel warned Erbakan of the infiltration of state institutions by "religious fundamentalists."
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) issued a memorandum on Feb. 28, 1997, strongly criticizing the government led by Erbakan's now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP) and claimed that the government had failed to take necessary measures to fight what the army called “reactionaryism,” or religious fundamentalism. The National Security Council (MGK) made several decisions during a meeting on Feb. 28 and presented them to Erbakan for approval. Erbakan was forced to sign the decisions. He subsequently resigned, handing over the Prime Ministry to his coalition partner, Tansu Çiller.
The letter was among the Feb. 28 documents sent by the Office of the Presidency to Parliament where Parliament's Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission is working to shed light on the Feb. 28 coup.
“Efforts by religious fundamentalist movements to infiltrate state institutions should definitely be prevented. Judicial institutions, the armed forces, universities, police organization, schools, the government, the Religious Affairs Directorate and local administrations should be protected [from these movements],” Demirel wrote in the letter.
The coup investigation commission wrote a petition to the Office of the Presidency and some other state institutions in June asking them to send Feb. 28 documents to the commission.
In the letter, Demirel also said the laws of the republican regime should be implemented carefully to protect the secular order in the country, adding that “threats and dangers against the principles of the republic and the state lead to great disturbance in the society and state institutions.”
Demirel is often accused of turning a blind eye to the activities of an illegal group within the military known as the West Study Group (BÇG) during the Feb. 28, 1997 coup period. The BÇG used to categorize politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats according to their religious and ideological backgrounds. As an investigation is under way into the participants of the Feb. 28 coup, there is mounting pressure for Demirel to be put on trial for his role in the coup.