Turkey commemorates former President Turgut Ozal

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Twenty years on, circumstances of his death still unknown but may surface soon

Twenty years on, circumstances of his death still unknown but may surface soon

Turgut Ozal, a former Turkish prime minister and the country's 8th president who passed away on April 17, 1993, was commemorated on the 20th anniversary of his death on Wednesday, amid persistent speculations over the circumstances of his demise.

Ozal passed away on April 17, 1993 after his return from a 12-day tour of the Turkic republics in Central Asia. Cause of his death was announced as a heart attack but no autopsy was performed on his remains back then.

Due to the mysterious circumstances of his demise, the former president's body was exhumed in October 2012 from his mausoleum in an investigation carried out by the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office.

A forensic investigation on his exhumed body has failed to determine the actual cause of his demise or affirm that Ozal might have been poisoned to death, a claim made by his family.

Following a confidential report from the State Inspection Board working under the orders of Turkish President Abdullah Gul, the prosecutor sent a nearly 50-page indictment to a criminal court in Ankara on April 4, 2013, charging a retired general of involvement in the alleged assassination of the late Turkish president.

The court accepted the indictment on Levent Ersoz, the retired general who is under detention since January 2009 as part of a probe against what is publicly dubbed in Turkey as Ergenekon, a clandestine network of former and active military officers, bureaucrats, journalists, academics, politicians, and gang leaders, which is accused of attempting to topple the elected government.

Ozal was the founder of the Motherland (Anavatan) Party and he became prime minister in 1983 when his party came to power in the first free elections after a military takeover in September 1980. In 1989, the Turkish parliament elected him as president.

Wednesday's commemoration ceremony at his tomb in Istanbul's Topkapi district hosted Ozal's spouse Semra Ozal, his son Efe, Secretary General of the Turkish Presidency Mustafa Isen, Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu, other family members, friends as well as representatives of the Motherland Party.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul released a message in regards to 20th anniversary of Ozal's death, stating that he remembered Ozal with respect. Gul stressed that former president made major efforts to "help Turkey catch the modern era."

In a separate message, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ozal "had a special place in people's hearts and he would be always remembered with such respect. Ozal had made significant contributions to Turkey's growth and its integration with the world."

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