Exhumation of late Turkish President's body begins

Tue 02 October 2012 12:09 GMT | 17:09 Local Time

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Turgut Ozal

Work started to open Ozal's grave.

Work started early on Tuesday to open late President Turgut Ozal's grave, as part of a belated investigation into the cause of the 1993 death of the president.

A criminal investigation team, a bomb disposal team, police officers and officials from the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) are standing ready at the gravesite. Heavy machinery was deployed to the area early in the morning to carry out the work at the site, which has been surrounded by steel walls so that it cannot be seen from outside.

Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Oktay Erdogan and ATK President Haluk Ince are also at Ozal's gravesite -- located in Istanbul's Topkapı district -- to supervise the work.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Cholakkadı also inspected the exhumation site in the afternoon. In initial comments, Cholakkadı said experts found that Ozal's body is “suitable for [forensic] examination.”

The case was opened earlier this year after a number of witnesses spoke of unusual circumstances on the day of the death of the then-president, who was reported to have suffered from a heart attack. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office recently issued a warrant to exhume the remains of the president for toxicology testing.

The prosecutor's office is also investigating a number of unusual circumstances that came to light following Ozal's supposed heart attack. Certain facts -- such as that on the day of his death his in-house doctor and nurse were both out, that staff were not able to start the ambulance due to a mechanical problem, the lack of first aid equipment at the presidential residence and other similar issues -- have led to suspicions surrounding the death of the former president.

In addition, the office is focused on inconsistencies between the statements of Ozal's doctor and his family members regarding the lack of an autopsy. Ozal's doctor, Cengiz Aslan, claimed that the family of the former president did not request an autopsy, but the Ozal family has denied this claim.

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