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Leaders of Turkey's 1980 coup on trial for 'crimes against the state'

The two surviving leaders are being tried over the post-coup crackdown which included torture and execution.

1988 file photo of Turkish President Kenan Evren with US President Ronald Reagan.
1988 file photo of Turkish President Kenan Evren with US President Ronald Reagan.
Image: AP Photo/Ron Edmonds/PA File

FORMER TURKISH PRESIDENT General Kenan Evren is one of two surviving coup leaders being put on trial over their role in the 1980 military coup which overthrew the government and introduced a new constitution.

Evren, now 94, was the military chief of staff at the time and led the coup which brought him to power; he served as Turkey’s president from 1982 to 1988.

He and former air force chief General Tahsin Sahinkaya, 86, are being tried for the crackdown on political freedom – which included executions, disappearances and torture – carried out under their command, according to the AP. They have both been charged with crimes against the state and face possible life imprisonment if convicted.

In the days following the coup, some 650,000 people were detained and around 230,000 people were prosecuted in military courts. Of the 300 people who died in prison, 171 died from torture and 49 were executed.

Reuters reports that although half of the population was not born at the time of the coup, the episode remains a traumatic one for Turkey.

Thousands of people have gathered to demonstrate outside the Ankara courthouse today, bearing banners saying “We do not forget”. Hurriyet Daily News said that the courtroom was packed for the trial’s opening today, while both government and opposition parties have lodged complaints against the coup leaders.

Both Evera and Sahinkaya are currently in hospital and are not attending their trial, though the court has called for an independent report on their ability to stand trial in person.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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