Former Turkish leader Kenan Evren, 93, defiantly tells a special prosecutor he had no choice but to oust the civilian government in 1980. He dismisses accusations about post-coup repression as pure “political rhetoric.”
ANKARA – It took 31 years, but the leaders of Turkey's bloody Sept. 12, 1980 coup d'etat are finally facing official interrogation by authorities. Thousands of people, mostly leftists, were arbitrarily imprisoned, tortured and killed in the aftermath. Until now, the leaders have largely skirted any official questioning or condemnation.
Special Prosecutor Huseyin Gorusen, who is leading the investigation into the infamous overthrow of the civilian government, questioned the coup's leader, former president and military chief of staff Kenan Evren, 93. Gorusen, who was 12 years old at the time of the coup, asked a series of questions during the two-and-a-half hour encounter in Mr. Evren's living quarters at the Central Officers Complex in Ankara.. The former president was accompanied by his lawyer, Nihat Ozgun, and was occasionally attended to by a healthcare worker. Ozgun said his client responded to 12 questions by the prosecutor. "He (Evren) had no untoward reaction," the lawyer said. "In fact he was very calm as he responded to the questions."
Below are excerpts from Gorusen's questions and responses from former President Evren:
Question: Why did you stage the coup?
Answer: The country was in a very bad state. The police had been split into two camps. Former Prime Minister Nihat Erim and Admiral Kemal Kayacan had been killed (Erim was killed in 1980 and Admiral Kayacan in 1992). The country was at a dead end. We waited and waited, but we were eventually forced to take this action. Under article No. 35 of the Turkish Military Code of Service, we were obliged to take over the country. On Dec. 27, 1979, we gave then-President Fahri Koruturk a letter regarding the national situation. Even though 19 Turkish provinces were under martial law at the time, the president was unable to end the chaos in the country. He could not end the bloodshed. The country was paralyzed, on the brink of civil war.
Q: Do you have any regrets about what you did?
No. I am not at all regretful. If I had to do it over again I would do the same. When I recall how the country was before Sept. 12, 1980 my hair stands on end. If I had authority and the situation was the same as before, I would do it again.
Q: Was there international backing for you and the other generals to stage the coup?
No, there was no international backing. This was not just a decision I took alone. This was a decision made by the entire Turkish military and its leaders. We waited and waited, hoping not to take over the country. But in the end, we were forced into doing this.
Q: General Tahsin Sahinkaya returned from the United States on Sept. 11, 1980. Did General Sahinkaya go to the States to ask for permission for this coup?
Sahinkaya's U.S. trip was for a meeting of NATO commanders. In fact, before the trip General Sahinkaya said to me, "Let me cancel the trip." However, I ordered General Sahinkaya to go on the trip saying, "Go, but return on the 11th of September." He returned on Sept. 11, 1980. He never went to get any sort of permission from the Americans.
Q: How is it that all the anarchy ended in just one day on Sept. 12, 1980?
What you are saying is just political rhetoric, later espoused by (deposed former prime minister) Suleyman Demirel. It was forbidden to go out onto the streets on Sept. 12. This continued for some time. During that time we were able to reach out to all secret service units and the sources of their information. Within six or seven months, the chaos had ended. What you are suggesting is just political hearsay, bandied about by politicians after 1980.
photo - Sbrac