Prisoner release hints Turkey is normalizing

One month after the military takeover in Turkey, the country is recuperating from its recent political upheavals. Its new military rulers are taking steps to normalize Turkish life in all respects.

The release over the weekend of former Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel and opposition leader Bulent Ecevit from a one-month detention is seen here as a major move in the normalization process. Both are back in their homes in Ankara , and no charges have been brought against them.

Because of the ban on political activities, however, they will have to keep out of politics and refrain from making any political statements as long as the military administration remains in power.

More than 60 of the 90 members of parliament who had been taken into custody after coup of Sept. 12, also have been set free. Only those who are subject to formal charges are still detained and will be put on trial. Some of the labor union leaders who were seized after the military takeover also have been set free.

The two rightist political leaders who were detained and sent to an island off the coast of Izmir now have returned to Ankara as well. Ultranationalist leader Alparslan Turkes has been formally arrested and will be tried on charges of "inciting and encouraging the nation to arm and fight against each other," for which the Turkish penal code provides a minimum of 20-year jail sentence.

Mr. Turkes and 28 other members of his party are charged with being responsible for killings and other acts of violence by extreme rightist terrorists during the last few years.

Islamic fundamentalist leader Necmettin Erbakan, head of the Nationalist Salvation Party, has been released, but he also will be put on trial on charges of violating the country's secular laws and advocating a theocratic system.

With the inquiry and interrogations on detained politicians now over, only those who are considered as having committed major political or other offenses remain under arrest. The release of Mr. Demirel and Mr. Ecevit has been particularly welcomed throughout the country. This is taken as a sign that the military rulers feel strong enough not to fear any negative repercussions from the release of the two major political leaders.

The military authorities have been stepping up their campaign against terrorism and have scored some successes. They reportedly have caught the terrorists who murdered former Prime Minister Nihat Erim and labor union leader Keml Turkler. A right-wing terrorist organization in Istanbul also has been uncovered.

The average Turk, who has lived in Recent years with the fear of political violence (which claimed some 20 lives daily before the coup), now are returning to normal life. People go out on the streets without being afraid of getting caught in cross fire or a bomb blast.

The military leaders have demonstrated that they are determined to crush violence by raiding terrorist strongholds (particularly in certain areas of eastern Turkey).The execution of a leftist and a rightist terrorist last week was seen as a sign of this determination, and few here doubt that other terrorists sentenced to death will be hanged, too.

Recent law-and-order measures have involved the surrender of arms by tens of thousands of people throughout the country who possess them illegally. Leaders of a so-called arms-smuggling mafia -- including some wealthy businessmen -- have been arrested.

These are some of the measures that civilian governments failed to enforce in the past. Political commitments and the weakness of the authorities prevented law enforcement in many fields, from traffic to municipal services. The martial law authorities are now involved in regulating traffic, keeping the streets clean, pulling down cafes and restaurants built illegally along the seashores of Istanbul, removing the street vendors, and filling in pavements.

To some, it seems strange to see officers and soldiers involved in such nonmilitary functions, but the truth is that the military are showing an ability to carry out what civilians failed to do in improving daily living conditions. But many Turks still believe that this should not be a reason for the military to stay in power once the major causes of the takeover are removed.

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