Halil Turgut Özal (October 13, 1927 – April 17, 1993) was a Turkish liberal political leader, prime minister and the 8th president of Turkey. He is the third democratically elected leader in Turkish history, after Adnan Menderes and Süleyman Demirel. As prime minister and later president, he transformed the economy of Turkey by paving the way for the privatization of many state sectors. This improved relations with the western world, especially the United States; Özal even described Turkey as a "little America", for the preponderance of goods that became available during his leadership.
Özal has been criticized by some, who have asserted that this shift from state-dominated to privatized economy came at the expense of the old Turkish middle class. This criticism has been answered by others who emphasize that Özal had tried to expand the middle class so as to integrate the more traditional popular rural base previously excluded from the markets. His presidential tenure is often perceived as having "brought capitalism to the country".
On June 18, 1988 he survived an assassination attempt during the party congress. He was wounded on his finger while another bullet missed his head. The assassin was captured and sentenced to life in prison but later pardoned by Özal.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Özal made an effort to create alliances with the Turkic countries of Central Asia as well as Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus. He provided moral, economic, and military support to the latter during the Nagorno-Karabakh War threatening to invade Armenia.
On April 17, 1993, Özal died of a suspicious heart attack in office, though rumours of assassination persist. His wife Semra Ozal claimed he was poisoned by lemonade and she questioned the lack of autopsy and his blood samples shattered after his death. He was buried with a state ceremony in İstanbul next to the mausoleum of Adnan Menderes, whom he had revered. On the 14th anniversary of his death, thousands of people gathered in Ankara and commemorated him.