World Bulletin / News Desk
Ahmet Özal, the son of former President Turgut Özal, whose body might be exhumed from his İstanbul grave as part of a belated investigation into the circumstances of his death, has said on a TV program that there have were previous attempts on his father's life, but has also told prosecutors he did not want the grave to be opened.
The Ankara Prosecutor's Office is investigating Turgut Özal's 1993 death. The case was opened earlier this year, after a number of witnesses spoke of unusual circumstances on the day of the death of the president, who was reported to have suffered from a heart attack. The prosecutor's office recently issued a warrant to exhume the remains of the president for toxicology testing.
The grave has not been opened yet, but a small army of reporters have been waiting near the monument. Authorities have not given a specific time for the exhumation, but all work around the monument will be carried out under the supervision of the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office. The toxicology tests will be conducted by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK).
As reporters waited near the monument on Monday, Ahmet Özal, one of the people whose statements were crucial in opening the investigation into the president's death 19 years after the fact, went to the Çağlayan Courthouse in İstanbul to talk to prosecutor Turhan Çolakkadı. Reportedly, Ahmet Özal told the prosecutor that he was against the exhumation of his father's body. According to reports, the stance against opening the grave was a family decision, based on the family's convictions concerning respect for the dead.
Ahmet Özal's unwillingness to support the exhumation is surprising as he has repeatedly given newspaper interviews stating that his father escaped a number of assassination attempts.
Turgut Özal survived one such attempt on June 18, 1988, when gunman Kartal Demirağ was prevented at the last second from firing on the then-prime minister by Motherland Party (ANAP) delegate Ali Ünal. The incident took place at a party congress at the Ankara Atatürk Sports Hall.
Ünal, who has also spoken to the press about the assassination, said he was certain that individuals from the intelligence department and police department were behind the Demirağ shooting attempt. Ünal also claimed that Özal knew who was behind the attempt, but couldn't take further action, an allegation voiced by various other people in the past. Ünal has recalled: “I saw three other people next to Demirağ that day, one of who was a woman. Nobody even wanted to find out their identities. I wasn't shown any photographs or camera footage [by the police] or asked to identify anybody in the congress hall that day.”
Ahmet Özal on Monday spoke about another assassination attempt that happened in public, speaking to Sevil Atasoy, a forensic expert whose program “Crime and Evidence” on CNN Türk hosted the late president's son.
Ahmet Özal told Atasoy that a private jet owned by his father with 13 people onboard, including his father and him, nearly crashed shortly after taking off from the Yeşilköy Airport due to an electrical issue in circuits near the wings. He didn't name the exact date, but said an accident report issued later compiled by the manufacturer, Goldsteram, said some screws on the wings were too tight. “Things like that don't happen. It is impossible for something like that to happen because one nail was screwed too tightly. That whole thing was a lie,” Ahmet Özal charged.
Ahmet Özal, who seemed to be holding back tears as Mustafa Sarsılmaz, a doctor who was on duty at the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) where the president was taken after his supposed heart attack, recalled the events of the day, speaking on the same program.
Ahmet Özal said those behind the Demirağ assassination attempt were some of Turkey's most influential people, noting he hopes that one day all the classified documents in state archives relating to his father's death will be made public.