The remains of former Turkey President, Turgut Ozal, were exhumed in Istanbul on Tuesday on the orders of prosecutors investigating suspicions of foul play in his death 19 years ago.
Mr. Ozal led Turkey out of military rule in the 1980s and drove far-reaching economic reform.
Amid tight security, mechanical diggers dug up his grave within a towering mausoleum in a cemetery on the European side of Turkey’s largest city; supervised by a prosecutor-led team including forensic experts.
Mr. Ozal died of heart failure in April 1993 in an Ankara hospital, at the age of 65, while in office.
After his death, relatives and associates voiced suspicions he had been poisoned.
Forensic teams will investigate whether any poisonous substances are present in the remains, which were expected to be returned to Mr. Ozal’s family by the weekend, the head of the state forensic medicine institute, Haluk Ince, said.
Turkish political history has been littered with military coups, alleged anti-government plots and extra-judicial killings.
A Turkish court is currently trying hundreds of suspects allegedly linked to a nationalist underground network known as “Ergenekon” accused of plotting to overthrow the current government.
Mr. Ozal’s brother, Korkut Ozal, said in 2010 he believed Ergenekon had killed his brother.
Extrajudicial killings were common at that time and have been blamed on shadowy militant forces with ties to the state.
Those suspicious about his death have pointed to efforts which Ozal made to end the conflict with Kurdish militants during his time in office, including securing a Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, cease-fire shortly before his death.
After a period of military rule following a 1980 coup, Mr. Ozal dominated Turkish politics during his period as prime minister from 1983 to 89, and parliament then elected him president.
Viewed as a visionary leader who helped pave the way for modern Turkey with free market economic policies, Mr. Ozal also gave firm support to the West, supporting the U.S.-led coalition which expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.
While prime minister, Mr. Ozal survived an assassination attempt by a right-wing gunman in 1988 when he was shot at a party congress, suffering a wounded finger.
The head of the forensic institute said it would take at least two months for the institute to complete its report, after which the findings would be sent to the state prosecutor’s office.
Prosecutors decided two weeks ago that Ozal’s remains be exhumed and an autopsy held, after a state supervisory board, acting on the order of President Abdullah Gul, produced a report in June voicing suspicions about the former leader’s death.
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