The Court Case Against Generals Behind Turkey’s 1980 Coup

CIA: The Dark Force Behind the Bloodiest Takeover in Turkish History

By ‘The Insider from Turkey’

CoupIt took some time, but now it won’t be long anymore before the lawsuit begins against the military junta behind the 12 September coup in 1980, the bloodiest takeover in Turkish history. For many years the responsible generals knew themselves protected by article 15 in the constitution, which ruled out their prosecution. The outcome of the referendum September last year brought an end to article 15, causing prosecution to become possible at last.

Retired General Kenan Evren was the leader of the 1980 junta. In a rest home for retired generals somewhere along the Aegean shore, he has dedicated himself to painting nudes and landscapes over the last years, but this carefree pastime seems to have come to an end. Recently prosecutor Murat Demir has been appointed by the chief prosecutor in Ankara to lead the investigation in a lawsuit against him. Demir will deal with the more than 1000 criminal complaints filed against Evren and his fellow generals since the referendum.

Demir says he will first gather evidence, before he has Evren and the others summoned for a statement. However, he has to hurry up. Two generals involved in the 1980 coup passed away already, while Evren has reached the age of 93 by now. Moreover, the other two still living generals of the 1980 junta, former Air force Commander Tahsin Sahinkaya and former Navy Commander Nejat Tümer, are not much younger. So when it comes to time, Demir does not have the luxury of the prosecutors in the ‘Operation Sledgehammer’ probe. That means the lawsuit against the much younger militaries, which have not perpetrated a takeover like Evren, but are accused of having planned one in 2002. Demir sees himself confronted with a much tighter time schedule than his colleagues. If he does not want to prosecute three deceased generals, he has to speed things up. Another complicating factor is that Evren made it quite clear already that he will commit suicide rather than being dragged before a judge.

henzeDemir’s focus is on the period between 12 September 1980, the day of the coup, and November 1983. So his investigation is not aimed at those who were paving the way for the takeover during the seventies. Like Paul Henze, the station chief of the American intelligence service CIA. Although Henze left his post just before the coup to become security advisor of American President Jimmy Carter, he has often been mentioned as the dark force behind the 1980 coup. Henze instigated much of the political violence in the years before the takeover. Not an unimportant contribution, since the chaos following on political violence was the main argument for the generals to take control. The fascist Grey Wolves, the Counter-Guerrilla unit and the national intelligence service MIT were the operational forces in the creation of this violence, but it was CIA puppet master Henze who gave the orders. The testimony of a Grey Wolve on a later date says it all: ‘With the provocations by the MIT and the CIA the ground was prepared for the September 12 coup’.

Jimmy Carter phoned Paul Henze after the American President had been informed about the events in Turkey. ‘Your people have made a coup!’, Carter said. Henze confirmed with great enthusiasm: ‘Our boys have done it!’ Later on Carter explained: ‘Before the September 12 movement [sic], Turkey was in a critical situation with regard to its defenses. After the intervention in Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Iranian monarchy, the movement for stabilization in Turkey came as a relief to us’. The takeover did not come as a total surprise for Carter however. This appears from a statement by his National Security Advisor Zbigniev Brzezinski made before the takeover: ‘For Turkey a military government would be the best solution’.

CIA4The 1980 junta’s claim was to terminate the political violence on the streets of Turkey; the political violence the CIA had been masterminding. The violence did not really come to an end though, for the regime merely transferred it from street to prison. Thousands were tortured there, in many cases to death. Dozens were executed and even up to the present day numerous victims are still missing. Moreover, more than half a million Turks were arrested, of which 230.000 were sentenced, often during mass trials. Especially leftish activists and associates of trade unions were imprisoned for prolonged periods. 14.000 Turks lost their nationality, while 85.000 criminal complaints with respect to ‘wrong ideas’ were filed. A total of 39 tons of books went up in flames and eight newspapers were closed. These crimes took place under the responsibility of Kenan Evren and the other four generals, but directly followed from the ‘strategy of tension’ as practiced by the CIA in the previous years.

The thought of a Turkish prosecutor going after Paul Henze and the CIA is bordering to surrealism of course. For several reasons. It is quite unlikely that Ankara wants to jeopardize its good relations with Washington by putting any blame on the CIA for the 1980 takeover. Besides, there is the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. Although residing in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, he is considered to be very close to the ruling AK-party in Turkey. Opponents of Gülen from several directions have come up with valid reasons to assume strong ties between Gülen and the CIA. This makes it unlikely that he wants to see the CIA accused for the 1980 coup. 

Gülen’s position towards the 1980 takeover was ambiguous. It has been said that he was on the list of the militaries to be arrested and that he went into hiding for that reason. But this is hardly conclusive information, for many others in favor of the coup were in fact also arrested. Evren even had many Grey Wolves arrested, as well as their infamous leader Alparslan Türkes. To much of their frustration one may add, since these terrorists considered the takeover could not have taken place without their assistance. It was a typical characteristic of Evren, who was not taking chances. To prevent any risk he simply had everyone arrested recognized by him as a possible risk, whether friend or foe.

Gulen4Anyway, what counts is that Gülen showed himself quite positive about the takeover shortly afterwards. He once even made the remark that Evren deserved ‘a place in heaven’. In nowadays Turkey one should not criticize Gülen too loud in this respect. The journalist Ahmet Sik referred to such matters as well in his unpublished book The Imam’s Army. And he was subsequently arrested on the accusation of being a member of Ergenekon, a clandestine organization that was accused of conspiring against the AK-party government. A few years ago the case against Ergenekon to rule out another takeover in Turkey was still genuine. But by now many agree that the AK-party has a double agenda and uses Ergenekon as an argument to get rid of troublesome opposition.

So, should the people of Turkey be satisfied with the upcoming prosecution of Kenan Evren? In other words, what is the use of prosecuting a 93-year old man in a country where the wheels of justice are known to turn exceedingly slow? Even when he’s still alive at the time a judge is ready to come to a verdict, one can have objections to the idea. There are other and probably better ways to deal with this dark page of Turkish history, that’s for sure. A truth commission to reveal the still hidden facts about the 1980 coup would be better. Certainly for the victims of Evren who survived his takeover, or for the relatives of the ones who didn’t. For they want to know all the facts which lead to their tragedy. But not for the AK-party, because such an investigation could easily lead into directions Erdogan and the likes don’t want to know of. For after all, did Evren not open the way to further politicization of Islam out of fear for the socialist movement in Turkey? Right wing Fethullah Gülen wasn’t positive about the 1980 junta for no reason. The AK-party has more than one reason to be grateful to Evren, since under the general’s supervision more mosques were built and more religious schools opened their doors than in previous years. Besides, the businessmen in the Gülen-movement would make fortunes under Prime Minister Turgut Özal, who was allowed by Evren to bring Turkey on the path of a semi-democracy under his own presidency.

All of this came to a change last year, when Gülen’s AK-party was in need of public support for the referendum. The main purpose of the referendum was the extension of the AK-party’s power in Turkey. Especially over to the institutions that were considered as an obstacle in that respect, like the judiciary and the Constitutional Court. However, prosecution of the remaining members of the 12 September junta became a prime argument in the quest for public acceptance of the proposed constitutional amendment package. Evren became something like a scapegoat, serving the propaganda campaign of the AK-party. If he would not have been such an advocate of murder and torture in 1980 one would almost feel sorry for the geezer.

# # # #

This site depends exclusively on readers’ support. Please help us continue by contributing directly and or purchasing Boiling Frogs showcased products.

FB Like

Share This

This site depends….

This site depends exclusively on readers’ support. Please help us continue by SUBSCRIBING and/or DONATING.


  1. Heffalump says:

    From a 1979 (!) article by Seyla Benhabib:
    “At a time when events in neighboring Iran have focused attention on the “northern tier” of the Middle East, a right-wing junta in Turkey that promises stability may seem attractive to western strategists and policy-makers. At their recent Guadeloupe Summit, the leaders of West Germany, France, Britain and the US spent much of their time discussing ways to bolster this weakest link in the NATO Alliance. Aside from an economic bailout, still being negotiated, their conclusions remain secret. The British ambassador recently provided a hint and caused a national uproar when he told a rotary dinner in Ankara that Turkey would do well to follow the “Brazilian example.” “
    — The Next Iran or the Next Brazil?: Right-Wing Groups behind Political Violence in Turkey,

  2. jschoneboom says:

    Just one of those situations that’s never going to be satisfying, isn’t it? Prosecuting Evren at this late date seems vaguely pointless, yet richly deserved, so it’s good to go after him, yet feels strangely empty. The idea of a truth commission, as is rightly pointed out, is much better, but holding our breath seems inadvisable there. All too often there’s just no such thing as justice. If we get some scraps of it, like Evren, I guess we take it. And then do the usual: keep telling the truth, because what else can we do?

  3. trueblue says:

    Oh sure, make excuses Sibel !! “Evren became something like a scapegoat,” What total bullshit !! You go ahead and feel sorry for him all you want. Those who believe that the AK-party has a double agenda and uses Ergenekon as an argument to get rid of troublesome opposition- are either the opposition themselves or those who have an agenda. The AK-party is the best thing to happen for the people of Turkey in such a long time.

    At least they are there trying to make a difference for their people and not deserting them by hiding away in a foreign country like some
    (Hint Hint).. You should step up and donate a little from the multi millions you and hubby have accumulated, to the AK Party

    I have been an anonymous reader for a long time, but You lost all credibility with me now Sibel

  4. trueblue: Run, run, the Gulenists are coming! Very illogical argument: this is about ‘relativity.’ I loath Evren, but I loath the puppet masters far more. We may be able to eaily take out the little 80+ yrs old evil Evren, but the puppet masters will be creating 100s of Evren-in Turkey, and elsewhere. So, I believe the thesis of this article is on letting the puppet masters go untouched.

    Oh, as for your hint hint: so funny; pathetic, and utter BS. Another tactic commonly used by my Gulenist followers. You guys tried your best to do it via ‘let’s buy her: offer positions, trips, etc.’ That didn’t work, so I must be very rich…rich with integrity, that is. So, am I making you guys nervous? Good then. Wait until our interview on Gulen gets posted;-)

  5. Black Order says:

    Ms. Edmonds,

    Please pardon me while I interject with an appeal to someone’s Super-Ego.

    @ trueblue

    When I read your post, I see someone who’s quite passionate and cares deeply about the world they live in…hence your obvious level of frustration and you even bothering to take the time to speak out.

    I know I’m not your life-coach, But in the interest of civil discourse and a better understanding the world you care so much about, I feel compelled to offer you a little self awareness and constructive criticism.

    I’ll start with self awareness. Look at what you’re saying…

    TB – ” I have been an anonymous reader for a long time, but You lost all credibility with me now Sibel. ”

    Translation: I think highly of you Ms. Edmonds, and I’m disappointed.

    TB – ” You should step up and donate a little from the multi millions you and hubby have accumulated, to the AK Party. ”

    Translation: If you value my opinion and want to regain my respect, you’ll prove yourself by putting your money where I deem appropriate.

    BO – Prove yourself or else? What is that? …a lame and futile attempt at coercion? …as if she needs YOUR respect.

    TB – ” At least they are there trying to make a difference for their people and not deserting them by hiding away in a foreign country like some. ”

    Translation: You’re lesser than they are. You’re a traitor to your home land and your people. You’re a coward.

    BO – Okay, this is where I have to call BS. There is a reason you’ve been following along for a long time. Ms.Edmonds’ integrity speaks for itself. You don’t believe what you typed. You know you respect and admire her as much as everyone else, but are SO frustrated that you resort to an attempt to project your hurt onto another with a vicious personal attack.

    All you are managing to accomplish is to deter from civil discourse and insult someone with whom you’re impressed.

    We all have our moments.( I know I do) I’m guessing that Ms. Edmonds understands as much as I do, that you’re only human, and subject to the same basic nature and emotions that we all are…but so is she, and that one was a little harsh. Don’t you think?

    If I were you, I’d be trying to take responsibility and offer an olive branch so to speak, starting with an apology. If you’re lucky, you might earn her respect.

    While I can certainly understand the value of pushing someone’s buttons and calling them out on something, …approaching someone with a respectful tone often yields a better result.

    Ever heard the old saying “You’ll attract more bees with honey than you will with vinegar.” ?

    Next time, why not start out with something like;

    “Greetings Ms. Edmonds, I have been following along for a long time and have come to admire and respect you, but cannot help but to question and be disappointed in what I’m reading.

    I disagree…I make observations A-B-C, my logical premise is 1-2-3, my hypothesized conclusion is X-Y-Z. What say you? ”

    This approach is usually more efficient and effective with respect to the exchange of knowledge and collective enlightenment.

    …just sayin’

    Thanks, and have a nice day,

    Black Order

  6. FromTurkey says:

    Dear Sibel,

    That is what FG followers do, we are used to their lies, creating dichotomies among populations and hypocrisies in Turkey, Sibel.
    Whom have interest can take a look at this insider evaluation/confession coming from Prof. Hakan Yavuz, Utah University, US.
    I wish someone can write english subtitles to his talk.
    He is a bit underestimating the issue but as he is himself the ex husband of one of the members of the governing AK party and a well known supporter/follower of FG (check out his previous papers), this is a good talk.

    Thanks God, you are not in Turkey and u can avoid the term “Ergenekon terorist” which is our label now :)))

    The water is getting HOT in Turkey, after its been found that FG followers had been cheating during the university entrance exams. Plus police academy entrance exams, plus KPSS exams and maybe more, all held by OSYM, We are lost in the huge numbers of this kind of illegal stuff getting covered up. It had quite an impact on the 1.700.000 kid taking it as this time it was so obvious. They (including the PM) first denied it, than they accepted it but they refuse cancelling the test.

    FG follower kids had the encrypted results of the questions from the headquarters of OSYM and/or the police and/or their teachers!!, lets say “somehow”. It was a kind of mod-medyan encrypt. Even the google search engine results proove it, they had the search for the term “mod medyan” just 1-2 days before from the google, you can see the pick obviously.

    Well, its again recently found that Prof. Ali Demir, OSYM president, has a confirmed reputation for “cheating/copying” in his own academic publications and one of the PhD exams that he held in his academic history had a similar story. The PhD exam that he held was investigated and he was found to be selective?? (!) cheating on the PhD student that he picked, the highest grades could not make it but the lowest did, after a complaint coming from a high grade student, he was investigated, the exam was cancelled later on. This guy is a very well known FG follower, he is placed there by our PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself. Imagine?

    2 days ago ten thousands of kids were on the streets, protesting the unacceptable situation. Our PM (whom is openly supported by FG during the elections) simply said that 1-2 thousand kids walking on streets do not mean anything, and he continued that “he can bring 10.000 of his own (??) kids!! against them!. (our kids/your kids)?? 10.000 of his kids; who can they be??? Imam’s Army perhaps?(The young police officers whom are Fethullah Gulen fans accepted to the police academy by cheating illegally again)

    American people should wake up and notice that the only aim Fethullah Gulen has is Jihad; so called education-jihad by himself. You have to stand up and take precaution before his so-called “golden youth” is penetrating your own youth. It seems to be too late for Turkey, they are everywhere now, in disguise…

    Has anyone seen the movie AGORA/2010?
    Please take a look at it…

  7. tabanli2 says:

    I have a comment on “not letting the puppet masters go untouched”. I don’t like the term “Puppet Regime” myself, although it is commonly used in order to point West as the real initiator and controller of the regimes at Middle East. I think portraying Evren as a puppet would profile him as a passive figure. In fact he (and all the other dictators and Kings in the third world) are willful co-conspirator who targets their own people. Should we let him go just be cause we cannot get all the real initiators and supporters of the Coup?

    I also find the structure of the article a little peculiar, this looks like two separate article to me. It starts with a statement that CIA was behind or at least is involved with the “September 12th Coup” 12 Eylul, which is a common knowledge and widely accepted in Turkey. Later it sidetracks to Gulen and AKP in such a way that a reader may get a idea that the author is suggesting that Gulen and AKP is behind 12 Eylul. Furthermore, the connection between CIA, Evren and AKP-Gulen Movement is not shown here explicitly and as a result the two parts of the article seems (to me) very disconnected.

  8. AKP- another success in manipulating masses to believe in what is not true.
    Recep Tayyip Erdogan- the man who reads a poem , hence goes to prison for this. After his release becomes the first turkish person to be invited to the white house and he wasn’t even prime minister yet. A few months later after this anonymous visit (that the media never seems to mention) he becomes prime minister. Then reforms over reforms take place, the amazing race of privatisation from gas to electricity hits the roof, on the short run boosting the economy but on the long run eternally putting the nation of turkey to debt. they blamed ecevit for the economical crisis that occurred many years ago, but i have to give it to tayyip, he was able to make the people believe that a really bad economy was good, perhaps that was the flaw of ecevit. His love for asphalt grew very large, making bridges and roads everywhere. He acts islamic on tv, then goes breaking down islamic institutes and paying millions to orthodox churches, perhaps that is what allah wanted off an ‘islamic’ leader. Now that we’re talking about ergenekon, it is not that Sibel was suggesting that evren should be seen as a passive figure, its just that arresting a retired man, who would probably die in prison after a few weeks, does not satisfy us when the higher figures who pull the strings get away with everything and how AKP and Gulen (also puppets of the same masters) act as if saviours of the turkish race. generally in turkey when one speaks of the flaws of akp they are named as leftists, however i am a religious muslim and if they told me that a soscialist party was going to run my country properly then i will vote for them. i am sick of political parties using Islam as a way of getting votes.

Speak Your Mind