Prosecutor believes Ozal victim of premeditated murder

The prosecutor involved in the investigation into the 1993 death of former President Turgut Ozal believes that the president was the victim of premeditated murder and has questioned suspects in the investigation to ascertain if they have any knowledge about a plan to assassinate Ozal by poisoning.

In addition, the prosecutor notes in the suspects' testimony folders that he reached the conclusion that the “suspects had a hand in a plot to kill the late president by poisoning.”

Ozal died from alleged heart failure on April 17, 1993, at a hospital in Ankara at the age of 65 while in office. However, claims were later raised that Ozal's death did not stem from “natural causes” and that he was poisoned.

An investigation was launched into the death of the late president last year after a number of witnesses spoke of unusual circumstances on the day of Ozal's death. His remains were exhumed as part of an investigation for toxicology testing to determine if the poisoning claims were indeed true. The Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) examined the late president's internal organs and tissues, and an autopsy report written by the council confirmed the presence of poisonous substances. However, members of the council were unable to conclusively determine whether the substances were the cause of Ozal's death.

Prosecutor Kemal Cetin recently questioned retired Brig. Gen. Levent Ersoz as a suspect in the Ozal investigation. He reportedly asked the general if he had any information about the death of the former president. The prosecutor also said there is a strong suspicion that Ozal was the victim of premeditated murder. The prosecutor also stated in Ersoz's testimony folder in an additional note that “there is a strong suspicion that Ozal was the victim of an organized and premeditated murder.”

Ozal led Turkey out of military rule in the 1980s and drove forward far-reaching economic reforms. He served as prime minister from 1983-89, after which Parliament elected him president. Seen as a visionary who helped shape modern Turkey with free market economic policies, Ozal also lent firm support to the West, backing the US-led coalition that expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

The prosecutor is also investigating a number of unusual circumstances that came to light following Ozal's alleged heart attack. Certain things -- including the fact that on the day of his death, Ozal's in-house doctor and nurse were both out; the emergency team was unable to start the ambulance due to a mechanical problem; there was a lack of first aid equipment at the presidential residence; and other similarly unusual issues -- have led to suspicions surrounding the death of the former president.

Additionally, the office has focused on inconsistencies between the statements made by Ozal's doctor and his family members regarding the initial failure to perform an autopsy. Ozal's doctor, Cengiz Aslan, claimed that the family of the former president did not request an autopsy, but the Ozal family denies this claim.

Most recently, retired Gen. Hursit Tolon, a prime suspect in the trial against the Ergenekon terrorist network, testified to prosecutor Cetin as part of the probe into the death of Ozal. The general denied claims that he had any connection to Ozal's death.