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Turkey holds low-key state funeral for 1980 coup leader

Evren died aged 97 at a military hospital in Ankara on Saturday

Published: Updated:

Turkey's army held a state funeral service Tuesday for former president Kenan Evren, but no government official attended the burial of the man who masterminded the bloodiest military coup in Turkish history.

Evren died aged 97 at a military hospital in Ankara on Saturday -- almost a year after he received a life sentence for his role in the coup, which unleashed a wave of arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings.

He was hailed as a hero at the time for ending years of violence between leftists and rightists, but has proved to be a divisive figure even in his death, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition boycotting his funeral.

The Turkish army held a military funeral honours ceremony for Evren -- the country's seventh president -- at its headquarters in Ankara, which was attended only by military officials and his family.

Private NTV television showed Evren's coffin wrapped in the Turkish flag and carried on a gun carriage accompanied by a military band. Military officials were also seen observing a moment of silence.

Conspicuous in their absence were officials from the AKP and three other parties represented in parliament, all of which had already declared that they wouldn't join the funeral for a convicted junta leader.

Army chief of staff Necdet Ozel was absent, too, as he is currently on medical leave. But other four forces commanders were present at the ceremony, Dogan news agency reported.

The military ceremony was followed by a quiet funeral prayer at a nearby mosque attended by around 300 people, a stark contrast to the hero's send-off former presidents usually receive, an AFP reporter said.

Two women in headscarves and a man were detained by police outside the mosque after chanting slogans against the former general.

An elderly woman told AFP: "It's a shame. All of today's leaders kissed his hand once."

Evren was buried in the state cemetery reserved for Turkey's presidents, prime ministers and the comrades of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey.

Evren seized power in a pre-dawn assault on September 12, 1980 following years of street clashes between rival left- and right-wing militias, and went on to rule for the next nine years as the country's self-appointed president.

Fifty people were executed in the aftermath of the coup, more than half a million were arrested and dozens died under torture while many others were reported missing over the next three years.

Evren was convicted of "crimes against the state" and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014, along with former air force commander Tahsin Sahinkaya, now 90. Neither men went to prison due to ill health.

Evren remained unrepentant in the years after the coup, defending the hanging of a 17-year-old convicted of killing a soldier in the unrest by recalling his "hands didn't tremble" as he signed death sentences under his junta.