Turkey: Former president indicted for 1980 coup

January 3, 2012 - 10:26 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The ailing, 94-year-old former Turkish president who came to power in a 1980 military coup could face life imprisonment for the military take-over, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Kenan Evren and former air force commander Tahsin Sahinkaya are charged with crimes against the state, said prosecutor Huseyin Gorusen. They face life in prison if convicted, Gorusen said.

The court will now have to decide whether to accept the indictment and order a trial.

Evren, who as military chief of staff led the 1980 coup before becoming Turkey's president from 1982 to 1989, was questioned by Gorusen in June, after constitutional amendments lifted the coup leaders' immunity and allowed them to be brought to trial.

The move comes as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government has initiated negotiations with opposition parties to rewrite the coup-era constitution ordered by Evren.

The authorities are also pursuing a series of trials of masterminds of more recent alleged coup plots, including hundreds of retired and active military officers. The government denies allegations that it is trying to silence critics through the trials.

In a related development Tuesday, a Turkish prosecutor summoned a former military chief for questioning as part of a trial of current and former officers alleged to have tried to destabilize discrediting the Islamic-rooted government in 2009, the state-run agency reported Tuesday.

The prosecutor's office in Istanbul asked retired Gen. Ilker Basbug to testify as a "suspect" on Thursday, the Anadolu Agency said.