A 97 year old former Turkish president was handed a life sentence by a Turkish court on Wednesday for heading up a brutal coup in 1980, the ‘Financial Times’ reports.
Kenan Evren who was sentenced by the Ankara court, held the Turkish presidency for seven years from 1982. The other surviving member of the junta, General Tahsin Sahinkaya received the same sentence; both men were stripped of their military ranks, they also have the right to appeal.
Given the advanced age of the two men, it is unlikely that they will be required to serve their sentences. However the court’s verdict marks an historical turning point in a country where the most powerful influence was held by the military into this century.
The sentences came on the same day that prosecution on a far greater scale into an alleged coup plot, dating from 2003, collapsed. A constitutional court ruled that the rights of 230 defendants on trial over the so-called ‘Sledgehammer’ plot had been violated which leads the way to a retrial.
Defendants in other cases have long claimed that their trials were deeply flawed, with the ‘Sledgehammer’ defendants – mostly military officers – arguing that a part of the prosecution case rested on falsified evidence.
The ruling, Islamist-rooted AK party previously hailed those cases as a break with the era of military dominance. But Prime Minister Erdogan’s administration, in the light of its recent split with the Fethullah Gulen movement which championed the prosecutions, has distanced itself from the trials.
One of Erdogan’s advisers has described the ‘Sledgehammer’ case as a plot against the military, while many people jailed as a result of another high profile coup plot trial ‘Ergenekon’ have been released this year.