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Saturday, 23 December, 2000, 11:03 GMT
Turkish press gets coup jitters
Leftist protesters in Istanbul are drenched by water cannon
Police used water cannon to break up leftist protests
The Turkish Government's decision to use force to end the stand-off with striking inmates in the country's prisons has caused increasing unease in parts of the press.

A number of left-leaning papers expressed concerns about the government's handling of the prison crisis, with at least one commentator suggesting that the ground was being prepared for a military coup.

It is always the same: first comes utter chaos and then a military diktat

Sabah columnist Cetin Altan
"Turkey is falling apart at the seams," a columnist wrote in the centrist mass-circulation Milliyet. "In the wake of the incidents over the amnesty bill, F-type prisons, and the hunger strikes, there is growing doubt about the strength of the government."

Writing in the liberal mass circulation Sabah, Cetin Altan said recent events were familiar.

"Casting an oblique glance around us, we too are coming to the conclusion that the ground is being prepared for the introduction of a military diktat," he wrote.

"It is always the same: first comes utter chaos and then a military diktat. Today's developments instill such a fear in our minds, whether we like it or not."

Global impact

Mr Altan said the Turkish state had been slow in coming to grips with the impact of globalisation.

Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan
Interior Minister Tantan: Under fire

"After the transition to a military diktat, a schism could be created in the country and after a bloody shock wave similar to a civil war, Nato and US forces could intervene to pacify the country. Then it would be easier for the country to change the status quo," he wrote.

"The new cadres to come to power would speedily solve the Cyprus and the Aegean problems, as well as the problem of the southeast, that is, the Kurdish problem."

"We should not have let the 20th century pass us by with such a shameful fiasco," Mr Altan concluded.

No conspiracy

A columnist in the mass-circulation left-wing Cumhuriyet appeared to agree.

The hidden forces of the state swing into action...

Cumhuriyet columnist Ihlan Selcuk

Ilhan Selcuk said that in times of grave national events Turks always say that 'Our country is experiencing the biggest crisis of the history of the Turkish Republic'.

"When you start hearing this said over and over again, it is not a prophecy that something will happen... Turkey is experiencing a crisis as big as any in the past," Selcuk wrote.

"The hidden forces of the state swing into action... the urge to live takes over. Are we at that point again?"

But writing in Milliyet, Hasan Cemal took a less apocalyptic view.

"Is it a conspiracy? ... Please don't bother with conspiracy theories. We should well know that the cure for such poison is the transparency of a democratic regime and a government clearly under the rule of law," he wrote.


A number of papers pointed to what they saw as confusion in leading government circles over the events leading up to the decision to launch the crackdown, as well as to discrepancies in the official casualty toll.

"For instance, Internal Affairs Minister Sadettin Tantan denied anyone was on a hunger strike while Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said the protests had reached a critical point and the operation was unavoidable," Melik Asik wrote in Milliyet.

Radikal newspaper reported that, according to Eren Keskin, the chairman of the Istanbul Human Rights Organisation, 54 prisoners had apparently "gone missing" during the course of the operations.

"We asked the chief prosecutor where these people were. He said he did not know," the paper quoted Mr Keskin as saying.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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21 Dec 00 | Media reports
The battle of Bayrampasa
20 Dec 00 | Media reports
Turkish press backs prison operations
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