ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish court on Friday sentenced 21 people, including a former military chief, to life sentences over a 1997 “post-modern” coup that toppled Turkey’s first Islamist-led government, broadcaster NTV and other media said.
The 1997 campaign of army pressure against the government of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan - a political precursor to the current president, Tayyip Erdogan - stopped short of a full-blown putsch. Still, the military pressure and the appearance of tanks in a town outside the capital, Ankara, have long rankled with Erdogan and members of his Islamist-rooted AK Party.
Turkey has seen violent coups in 1960 and in 1980. But under Erdogan, who survived an attempted putsch in 2016, the political strength of the military has been drastically rolled back.
Among those who were handed life sentences were General Ismail Hakki Karadayi, 86, who was chief of general staff between 1994 and 1998, and his deputy at the time, General Cevik Bir, NTV said.
Another 68 people were acquitted by the court while four other defendants died in the course of the five-year trial, media reports said.
However, the Hurriyet newspaper said the court had not ordered for the immediate arrest of the 21, citing their advanced ages and health conditions.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach the court for comment. Those sentenced could appeal to a higher court, according to one ruling party official speaking on live television.
Erbakan, who died in 2011, pioneered Islamist politics in Turkey, a Muslim country with a secular state system, paving the way for the later success of Erdogan’s AK Party.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan