Europe

Former Turkish President and coup leader Kenan Evren dies

Turkey's new President Kenan Evren talking during a press conference where he announced his six-point programme 16 September 1980 Image copyright afp / Getty Images
Image caption Gen Evren launched his coup, Turkey's third, in September 1980

Former Turkish President Kenan Evren died on Saturday at the age of 97.

On 12 September 1980 General Evren launched a coup that overthrew the government. He went on to serve as president until 1989.

He was put on trial in his nineties and was handed a life sentence for the coup in 2014.

Some 600,000 people were detained and 50 executed by hanging in the coup. All political parties were banned, with left-wing activists heavily targeted.

The former president died at a hospital in Ankara.

He had been in ill health since 2012 and was unable to appear in court when convicted.


Guney Yildiz, BBC News

Kenan Evren has never expressed regret for his role in the most brutal military coup in modern Turkish history.

It was initially welcomed by some sections of society who believed the coup would bring stability. But it came to be loathed by people across the political spectrum.

His name is associated with repression in the minds of left wingers, Kurds, nationalists and Islamists.

A referendum to change the constitution to try the surviving leaders of the coup was strongly backed by Turkey's voters in 2010.

As a symbol of military rule Evren remained a significant figure until the end of his life but there are many who will not regret his passing.


1980 coup

The coup was the last and bloodiest of Turkey's coups and came to symbolise the military's long-standing dominance over Turkish politics.

Gen Evren believed that his actions saved the country from descending into anarchy after deadly fighting between political extremists.

"Should we feed them in prison for years instead of hanging them?" he said in a speech in 1984, defending the decision to execute political activists.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 600,000 people were detained during the 1980 coup

End of immunity

Despite allegations of deaths and torture it appeared unlikely that the former president would ever face trial.

However, a constitutional clause granting the general immunity from prosecution was overturned after a referendum in 2010, as part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attempts to rein in the power of the army.

In 2014 a Turkish court convicted him of crimes against the state for setting the stage for army intervention and conducting the coup.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gen Evren, pictured here in 2010, maintained that the coup was a necessary act

Rise to power

Gen Evren's career's begin as an officer from a military academy, was made a general and rose to become chief of the general staff.

During the years leading up to the 1980 coup, there was widespread political violence on the streets involving far-right and far-left activists, which the military said the government was incapable of controlling.

After the coup, parliament was dissolved and Gen Evren ruled the country as the head of the National Security Council.

The council oversaw the drawing up of a new constitution, which was approved by a referendum and made him president for a seven-year term.

Parliamentary elections were held during this time and Turkey applied to join the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union.

During his retirement two plots to assassinate him were thwarted and he took up painting.

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