Veteran Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand dies

ISTANBUL Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:07am GMT

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, whose documentaries and books helped shape many Turks' understanding of their recent tumultuous history, died in Istanbul late on Thursday.

Birand suffered cardiac arrest due to complications while undergoing gallbladder surgery, according to the Hurriyet Daily News for which he worked.

The 71-year-old had been battling cancer, for which he had had surgery in 2011.

With a career spanning almost 50 years, Birand interviewed world leaders from Bill Clinton to Francois Mitterrand to Saddam Hussein. He worked mainly as a newspaper columnist and anchorman, including at CNN Turk.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whom Birand interviewed often, described him as "professional and passionate" in a statement. A devout Muslim, Erdogan said he had prayed for Birand when he underwent cancer surgery.

Birand's documentary films about the 1960 and 1980 military coups helped define those watershed moments in the public record.

In October he told a parliamentary commission investigating Turkey's coups that he and other members of the media had tacitly supported such military interventions.

His book "30 Hot Days" was an insider-like account of the international manoeuvring by Britain, the United States, Turkey and Greece that followed Turkey's 1974 invasion of Cyprus.

Turkey still keeps 30,000 or more troops on the eastern Mediterranean island and backs a small Turkish Cypriot administration there, while the rest of the world considers Greek Cypriots the only legitimate authority for the island.

(Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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