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Erdogan pardons elderly generals imprisoned following 1997 'postmodern coup'

Erdogan pardons elderly generals imprisoned following 1997 'postmodern coup'


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday pardoned seven former military officers sentenced to life in prison for the 1997 overthrow of an Islamist-led government.

The former generals, who are between 70 and 80 years old, were pardoned due to health problems and old age, according to a decision published overnight in the country's Official Gazette.

A court sentenced the generals to life in prison in 2018 for their role in a campaign by Turkey's pro-secular military and forced the resignation of then-Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. Their sentences were upheld by an appeals court in 2021.

The ouster was later dubbed Turkey's postmodern coup because unlike previous military takeovers in the country, no tanks or soldiers were used. Erbakans' government was replaced by a coalition appointed by the president.

Among those released from prison on Friday following the decision was Cetin Dogan, 83, who was then head of military operations. Former general Cevik Bir, 85, who was deputy chief of staff, was released early along with other officers due to health problems. The main defendant, former chief of staff Smail Hakk Karaday, died in 2020, while the appeal process continued.

At the time of Erbakan's ouster, the military was concerned about his efforts to boost the image of Islam in the predominantly Muslim but secular country. On February 28, 1997, the military-dominated National Security Council threatened action if Erbakan did not back down. He resigned four months later.

The trial was one of several held across the country against military officers as Erdogan continued his efforts to hold generals accountable for their interference in government affairs.

The Turkish military, which has long viewed its role as protector of the country's secular traditions, staged three coups between 1960 and 1980. In July 2016, Turkey called off a coup attempt that the government blamed on supporters of a US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah. Gulen. The cleric denies any involvement.

The pardon comes a week after Erdogan met with the leader of the main opposition party, Ozgur Ozel, who raised the issue of the pardon. Pro-secular Ozels People's Republican Party won the local elections in March.




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