Turkey's former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz dies aged 72

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Mesut Yilmaz, a former Turkish prime minister and veteran politician who served as premier three times during a tumultuous political era in his country, died Friday at age 72, the official Anadolu news agency reported.

Yilmaz led the now-defunct center-right Motherland Party or ANAP from 1991 to 2002 and served as prime minister three times in the 1990s. Two of those premierships lasted only months because of the fall of his coalition governments. He was a founding member of the party.

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Yilmaz formed his third government, which lasted for 18 months, after the so-called 1997 military memorandum that ended the coalition government of then-prime minister Necmettin Erbakan at a tense political time in Turkey. Erbakan espoused Islamic values and was a mentor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erbakan’s overthrow was dubbed a “postmodern coup” by the secular military and remains a traumatic event for his followers.

Earlier, Yilmaz served as foreign minister and culture minister in former premier Turgut Ozal’s government.

Yilmaz received treatment in 2019 for lung cancer and had an operation in May to remove a tumor in his brain stem. He died Friday in an Istanbul hospital where he was receiving treatment.

Yimaz was the first prime minister to be tried in Turkey’s supreme court for the charge of “misfeasance in public office” for alleged attempts to influence a tender for private bank Turkbank. The court ruled in 2006, saying state officials should keep their distance from tendering processes and found Yilmaz to be criminally liable. The sentencing was postponed through an amnesty bill.

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