ISTANBUL, June 17 : Turkey's former president and prime minister Suleyman Demirel, a giant figure in the country's politics for over half a century, died on Wednesday, the state Anatolia news agency said. He was 90.
In a remarkable career, Demirel survived dismissal in two military coups and a ban on holding office to become president and one of Turkey's most respected elder statesmen. Demirel served as prime minister on repeated occasions in the 1960s and 1970s and then again one final time in the 1990s before serving as head of state from 1993 to 2000.
He died of heart failure resulting from a severe respiratory tract infection, Anatolia said, quoting the private Ankara hospital where he was treated.
His heyday was during one of the most chaotic periods of modern Turkish history when governments changed sometimes annually under the shadow of the powerful military, with the country was beset by daily street violence and an economic slump.
Survivor of two coups
Trained as an engineer, Demirel first went into politics in the early 1960s in the wake of the 1960 military coup that resulted in the execution of then premier Adnan Menderes. Leading the centre-right Justice Party (AP), he first become prime minister in 1965, becoming at 40 Turkey's youngest ever government chief.
He held together a government for some six years, a huge achievement by the standards of the time.
But Demirel resigned in the 1971 coup, which became known as the "coup by memorandum" when the army presented him with a written ultimatum rather than sending tanks onto the streets.
The coup in 1980, the third in the history of the Turkish republic, saw Demirel hit with a ban from all political activity and sent into temporary internal exile at a military camp. ?AFP