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What’s behind Erdogan’s pardoning of generals jailed over Turkey’s 1997 coup?

The move comes after a landmark meeting between the Turkish president and the main opposition leader that sparked hopes for political reforms in the country.
Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, looks on during a joint statement to the media in Baghdad on April 22, 2024.

This is an excerpt from Turkey Briefing, Al-Monitor's weekly newsletter covering the big stories of the week in Turkey. To get Turkey Briefing in your inbox, sign up here.

ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday pardoned seven former army generals, whose life imprisonment for overthrowing the Turkish government in 1997 was widely criticized as unconstitutional due to their old age and ailing health. 

All seven generals, the youngest of whom is 76, were released from prison  Friday, after the pardon was published in the country’s Official Gazette at midnight. Turkey’s constitution allows for the release of convicts who suffer from serious health conditions or old age, but civic groups often criticize the government for failing to implement this provision. 

A court sentenced them to life sentences in 2018, a decision that was upheld by an appeals court in 2021. Most of the generals, who held top brass positions in the army in 1997, were charged for their roles in the ouster of the government led by the late Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, an Islamist and a political mentor of Erdogan. 

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