Parliamentary coup commission vital, should keep working, say analysts
It has been roughly four months that the parliamentary Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission began hearing the testimony of individuals who closely witnessed undemocratic attempts against the political life of the country.

Political analysts say the commission serves as the "civilian leg" of efforts to confront the country's history of coups and that the commission should keep working until its investigation into all sorts of antidemocratic endeavors is complete.

Besides probes and legal cases already initiated against various coups and coup attempts, the parliamentary commission is investigating the four past coups d'état -- staged on May 27, 1960; March 12, 1971; Sept. 12, 1980 and Feb. 28, 1997 -- and the military memorandum on April 27, 2007, through which the military hoped to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, which it deemed too conservative and therefore a threat to the secular identity of the republic.

A debate over the existence and practices of the parliamentary commission flared up last week after a retired general -- under arrest awaiting trial as part of an ongoing investigation into the Feb. 28 coup -- asked a prosecutor's office to suspend the activities of the commission. Retired Gen. Ahmet Çörekçi, former head of the Air Forces Command, filed a criminal complaint at the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and claimed that the activities of the parliamentary commission provides details from the testimonies of individuals testifying to the commission without checking if the testimonies reflect the truth, and thus it violates the constitution. "I am asking [the prosecutor's office] to ban all TV broadcasts on the Feb. 28 [1997 coup] investigation and suspend the activities of the parliamentary commission until the legal process against Feb. 28 is over in order to provide suspects with opportunity for a fair trial," Çörekçi said in his complaint.

Political analysts, however, do not think that the commission is engaged in unconstitutional activities, but on the contrary, its activities are vital for the further improvement of Turkish democracy.

According to political science professor İhsan Dağı, the parliamentary Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission serves as a "confrontation platform" and it fulfills its responsibility very successfully. "The commission does not have judicial power [to prosecute individuals who testify to the commission]. It is a platform where military coups are being investigated by the civilian will. It brings together individuals who witnessed the coups either as actors or victims. We may call it a ground where people confess their sins [about what they did and did not during the coup periods]," Dağı stated.

So far, more than 100 people regardless of their roles as victims or actors of military coups have testified to the commission. Among them were journalists, former and active duty deputies and other politicians, worker unions' leaders, civil society representatives and media bosses as well as the victims of the latest coups, which took place in 1980 and 1997.

Dağı also said the parliamentary commission should continue to keep working as its existence is a clear indication of the decisiveness of Parliament to protect democracy. "There should be a civilian leg [to investigate coups] at a time when our country is confronting coups. And the parliamentary commission is working as that civilian leg," he added.

For members of the parliamentary Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission, it is unlikely that the prosecutor's office would suspend the commission's activities upon the request of retired Gen. Çörekçi. Commission spokesperson İdris Şahin, who is also a deputy of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), told the media that the prosecutor's office would not "touch the commission."

"The commission does not have the intention or authority to find out the culprits [responsible for coups]. Our aim is to enlighten the people about the coup periods and help prevent future attempts to destroy democracy," he stated. Şahin also said the activities of the commission do not negatively impact the course of the Feb. 28 investigation. "The parliamentary commission's activities fall within the scope of Parliament. The prosecutor's office cannot interfere in our activities. Our commission has heard the testimonies of over 100 people so far. None of them spoke about Çörekçi. So he cannot complain that the commission violated his personal rights," the spokesman added.

Journalist and author Nazlı Ilıcak agreed that the parliamentary commission is unlikely to be suspended. "This is not a commission that seeks to interrogate or prosecute people. It is investigating the events that led to the staging of coups in the country. I do not deem it likely for the prosecutor's office to suspend the commission," she said.

Ilıcak testified to the commission as a victim of the Feb. 28, 1997 coup in June.

She also said people would not allow the suspension of the parliamentary Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission. "We are going through a period of confrontation. We may also call it a period of cleansing. People support the investigation of coups and their perpetrators," she added. (Cihan/Sundays Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-04 16:00:01
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