ANKARA  - The leader of the 1980 Turkish coup and a co-conspirator have been charged with crimes against the state after an Ankara court approved an indictment Tuesday, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Prosecutors have sought life imprisonment for ailing retired generals Kenan Evren, 94, and Tahsin Sahinkaya, 86, it reported. Evren came to power after the coup and was Turkey's seventh president from 1982 to 1989. Five army generals took power in 1980 but Evren and Sahinkaya are the only ones who are alive today.

With the approval of the indictment a trial is due to begin, a process expected to bring Turkey closer to confronting its coup-filled past as it is the first time in the history of the republic that perpetrators of a coup will stand trial. "The time of ... the coups are a thing of the past," thanks to the reforms carried out by the government to diminish military influence in politics, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in parliament on Tuesday. The military, which considers itself the guardian of secularism in modern-day Turkey and currently boasts a force of 515,000 troops, has carried out three coups -- in 1960, 1971 and 1980.