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Turkey hands life sentences to 1980 coup leaders

Two surviving leaders of Turkey’s 1980 coup have been handed life sentences by an Ankara court. General Kenan Evren (97) and General Tahsin Sahinkaya (89) are the first officers to be tried for a coup in Turkey. Neither men were in court due to ill health. Both had been charged with setting the stage for the 1980 army intervention, then conducting the coup. Evren has never expressed regret for the wave of executions and torture which followed. Families of victims held a rally outside the courtroom saying justice had finally been served. A constitutional clause granting the military immunity from prosecution was overturned in 2010 referendum paving the way for Wednesday’s sentencing. Under General Evren who was also president until 1989, 50 people were executed, some 600,000 were arrested and many disappeared. Evren justified it by saying it saved the country from descending into anarchy after violent clashes between political extremists. The period came to symbolise the military’s decades-long dominance over Turkish politics. Since then the army has been excluded from state bodies that had exerted influence on politic. The 1980 military intervention was the last and bloodiest of Turkey’s coups. The others took place in 1960 and 1971. In 1997 the army was also involved in forcing out a coalition government.

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