Istanbul, Reuters—Prosecutors in Turkey have charged a retired general with attempting to kill late President Turgut Ozal, in a last-minute bid to keep the investigation open two decades after his death, local media said on Tuesday.
Ozal’s body was exhumed last October after years of rumors that he was murdered by militants of the “deep state”—a shadowy group within the Turkish establishment of the day. He had angered some with his efforts to end a Kurdish insurgency and survived an assassination bid in 1988.
An autopsy last year failed to find any evidence that Ozal, who died of heart failure in 1993 aged 65, had been poisoned as some members of his family had claimed, but prosecutors said at the time their investigations would continue.
However, under Turkey’s statute of limitations, legal proceedings cannot be initiated more than 20 years after the event. The 20th anniversary of Ozal’s death falls on Wednesday.
An Ankara court accepted an indictment on Tuesday seeking life imprisonment for retired general Levent Ersoz. The indictment lists Ozal’s wife and son as plaintiffs and accuses Ersoz of “attempting to or succeeding in an attempt to murder the president,” according to Turkey’s Dogan news agency.
Ersoz, who has denied any role in Ozal’s death, is also a top suspect in an ongoing case against Ergenekon, an alleged underground network of secular arch-nationalists.
Ergenekon is accused of being at the heart of political violence and extra-judicial killings which scarred Turkey for decades, an embodiment of the anti-democratic forces Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan says he has fought to stamp out.
Critics see the Ergenekon case as a ploy by an authoritarian prime minister to stifle opposition.
Ozal, whose free market economic reforms helped shape modern Turkey, was in poor health before his death. After undergoing a triple heart bypass operation in the United States in 1987, he kept up a gruelling schedule and remained overweight.
He dominated Turkish politics as prime minister from 1983 to 1989. Parliament then elected him president, but those close to him believe his reform efforts displeased some in the security establishment.