An Ankara court on Thursday issued its final ruling to convict 14 former soldiers in the case regarding the 1997 military memorandum, dubbed the February 28 coup.
The former soldiers requested a stay of execution for their sentences, but the court rejected the request, Duvar news website reported.
With the final verdict announced, the court sent out arrest warrants for the former generals and sent notices to the Turkish Chief of General Staff for the removal of their ranks, Duvar said.
“First, Erol Özkasnak and Yıldırım Türker were taken from their homes in Ankara by plainclothes policemen,” journalist Müyesser Yıldız, who has followed the case extensively over the years, wrote in a tweet. “Former Gendarmerie General Commander Fevzi Türkeri and retired general Cevat Temel Özkaynak were also detainend today.”
Yine Ankara’da olan eski Jandarma Genel Komutanı Fevzi Türkeri ile emekli general Cevat Temel Özkaynak da bugün gözaltına alındı.
— Müyesser Yıldız (@MuyesserYildiz) August 19, 2021
“There were incredible injustices in this case, as in many other cases. It was a political case from A to Z,” Yıldız said. “In the end, 14 retired generals aged between 80 to 90 were sentenced to life in prison, and jailed today.”
Eighty four year old retired general Çetin Doğan, who was the director of operations in the Turkish Chief of Staff at the time, went to the courthouse in the southern holiday town of Bodrum where he lived, to turn himself in. He was taken to the hospital, according to his lawyer Hüseyin Ersöz, and after a check-up he was sent to the prison in the Muğla province.
“Çetin Doğan did not bow down to the Sledgehammer Case, nor the unlawful practices of the February 28 trial,” Ersöz said. “He did not run or immigrate like certain people did! You will be ashamed of this ruling in the future, not us.”
Retired general Çevik Bir, the second chair of the Chief of Staff at the time, was also detained from his home in Milas, Muğla, according to Duvar.
Retired general Hakkı Kılınç, the Gendarmerie General Command Director of Operations at the time, was detained in Manavgat, Antalya.
Remaining former soldiers with outstanding arrest warrants are former Air Forces commander Ahmet Çörekçi, former National Security Council İlhan Kılıç and retired generals Aydan Erol, Çetin Saner, İdris Koralp, Kenan Deniz and Vural Avar.
The February 28 memorandum is known as Turkey’s ‘post-modern coup’, as it resulted in the eventual fall of the elected government at the time.
The generals were accused of being part of the Western Working Group, a clandestine organisation that profiled politicians, state officials and intellectuals over religious affiliations and monitored their supposed Islamist or anti-secular activities.
The military issued a memorandum on Feb. 28, 1997 against political Islam at the National Security Council meeting. The government at the time was led by the Islamist Welfare Party (RP), a predecessor of the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Then-prime minister Necmettin Erbakan was forced to resign, and the Constitutional Court shut down the RP for activities against secularism, a founding principle of the Turkish republic.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was serving as Istanbul’s mayor at the time, elected from the RP. He was issued a 10-month prison sentence over a poem he recited and was banned from politics for several years. Many former members of the RP, including former president Abdullah Gül and former parliamentary speaker Bülent Arınç, joined together to found AKP in 2001.