Senior Turkish intelligence official found dead in Romania

Eser ŞahanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The shadowy former director of Turkey’s naval intelligence agency, who had been facing charges for his role in a military coup in Turkey, has been found dead in Romania. Retired Colonel Eser Şahan, 66, headed the Turkish Navy’s intelligence wing in the 1990s, and participated in a swift military coup that toppled the government. The coup, known in Turkey as “the 1997 military memorandum” unfolded on the evening of February 28, 1997, when secularist officers from every branch of Turkey’s Armed Forces forced the resignation of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and ended the rule of his coalition government.

The putsch was primarily directed against Erbakan’s Islamist-based Welfare Party, which was seen as violating Turkey’s constitutional separation between religion and state institutions. Although the parliament remained in session and the constitution continued to be in effect following the February 28 military coup, Turkey’s Constitutional Court outlawed the Welfare Party shortly afterwards. But many of its Islamist members, including Istanbul mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, formed a new political group called the Virtue Party, and eventually the Justice and Development Party, which took power in the country 2002. With Erdoğan in power, the leaders of the 1997 coup, including Colonel Şahan, were tried for subverting Turkey’s democracy.

But Şahan managed to escape to Romania, where he promptly requested —and was eventually given— political asylum. He had been living there since 2004. Turkish media said last week that authorities in Romania had released very little information about the circumstances of Şahan’s death. However, several Turkish newspapers, including the leading Zaman, said the retired colonel’s body had been found lying on a park bench in the Romanian capital Bucharest. A handgun was allegedly found on the ground next to him. Sources claim he committed suicide.

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