From forced marriage to forced coup
The party responsible for the bloody coup attempt, the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), is known to have engaged in organisational activities within the state for half a century. But, the truth is that it attained the strength to stage a coup in the AKP period. The ‘forced marriage’ between the AKP and FETÖ broke up with the 17-25 December probes. The ‘enmity’ that arose in the after
DECIPHERING 15 JULY
On the evening of 15 July we witnessed a bloody, but unsuccessful, coup attempt. Undoubtedly, the stifling of the coup attempt, still believed by one section of the opposition to have been orchestrated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and in which 248 people lost their lives resisting the putschists, stopped Turkey from sliding into a far more bloody period. The most fitting conclusion to be reached about the coup attempt is that, despite the few scraps of information blowing around, aspects of it remain shrouded in darkness.
Over time the huge wave of arrests, detentions and purges, which in the direct aftermath of the coup attempt targeted the ranks of the Gulenist organisation dubbed the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), was escalated to include all opponents of the AKP. Over and above the thousands of people, chiefly soldiers, police officers, members of the judiciary, academics and teachers, who were purged from public bodies, some 40,000 people were remanded in custody on ‘suspicion of involvement in the coup’.
However, apart from certain dubious pronouncements that have found their way into the media until now, there is no information in the public domain as to what happened on the evening of the coup, the events prior and subsequent to it and the substance of the investigation. Certain questions that raise doubts in everyone’s mind still remain unanswered, ranging from the timing of the attempted coup to the shortcomings of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) despite having been tipped off by a major. With everybody and his uncle standing accused of ‘FETÖ involvement’ based on mutually contradictory claims and statements, criticism is deflected away from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is alleged to have shared power and have been a partner in crime with the Fethullah Gülen organisation. The uncontested claims and unanswered questions only serve to feed suspicions that the coup attempt was orchestrated to tighten the AKP or President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s grip on power.
Regime construction through decrees with the force of law
By means of the decrees with the force of law issued in the immediate aftermath of the coup, construction of a new regime has been speeded up as the state is reassembled. There is ever weaker adherence to universal rules and principles of law and democracy. The civil service is being reorganised such that the sole demand made is obedience. To serve these ends, while one brotherhood that exploits religion as a tool is proclaimed to have been the chief culprit behind the coup, members of other religious brotherhoods are embedded into the civil service.
Did nobody notice?
In the wake of the coup attempt, it is no surprise to see an increase in the number of probes being launched into the Gülen Brotherhood, proclaimed to be a terrorist organisation in the aftermath of the 17/25 December 2013 corruption investigations. The consensus that emerges from a great many indictments is that the Gulenists began to organise in the military in the 1970’s and these efforts accelerated after 1984.
Bearing in mind that, despite the large number of news items, articles, books and interviews to appear since the 1990’s concerning the Gulenists’ organisational efforts within the state focussing chiefly on the arms of the civil service charged with security, i.e. the military, police, judiciary and intelligence agency, no heed was paid to these assertions, the most important question that begs an answer is, “Did nobody notice this fact? Or, did they prefer not to notice? Who is to account, and how, for the slackness that both civilian governments and the military, alleging to be the ‘guardian of secularism’, displayed towards such an organisation? Or was this slackness adopted as a conscious choice?”
It is beyond doubt that the Gulenists did not pose an immediate threat, but did so once their power had reached a zenith. The AKP government clearly does not bear sole responsibility for the threat posed to the state and society by an organisation whose activities stretch back in time over nearly half a century. But, it is a fact that the AKP ruled as a single-party in the final years in which the Gulenists went from strength to strength. The glory years during which FETÖ was powerful enough to make the state function in ‘parallel’ with it coincided with the period of power sharing set up in consort with the AKP.
Predicated on this fact and taking stock of the ongoing detentions and purges and the scary allegations underlying them, you might well inquire, “If the Gülen Brotherhood was indeed so well organised within the military and civil service, why did it need to stage a coup?” But, more significantly, even though the Gulenists had made their intentions as against the AKP and Erdoğan clear with their probes into MİT of 7 February 2012 and graft of 17/25 December 2013, it would be far more penetrating and to the point to ask why the coup attempt that lead to 248 people losing their lives was not/could not be prevented.
From forced marrıage to forced coup
It would be somewhat unfair to say that the AKP and Erdoğan bore sole responsibility for the Gülen Brotherhood besieging the state. The Gulenists’ organisational activities within the state, even if they encountered obstacles from time to time, stretched over 45 years, 30 of which preceded the birth of the AKP. As such, a good many governments and people bear responsibility for the process that saw the Gulenists besiege of the state. But, it is a fact that the greatest burden of responsibility rests on the AKP’s shoulders. For, to quote President Erdoğan’s words, the Gülen Brotherhood “was given everything it asked for” and, so, it was in the period from 2007 to 2012 under the AKP’s watch that its power reached a zenith.
It was the military that both created the biggest rift between the pair, thanks to the role assumed by the Gülen Brotherhood in the 28 February coup of 1997, and that brought them into a forced alliance. Following the memorandum of 27 April 2007, the AKP entered an alliance with the Gülen Brotherhood to get the military to retreat from politics. The Gulenist’s members embedded within the police and judiciary, through a whole host of intrigues, launched the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations. In the space of a few years, the AKP, along with the Gülen Brotherhood with which it had formed an unofficial alliance, eliminated their common enemies. In the process, the Gulenists took their organisation within the state to the height of its glory, drawing on the virtually limitless means that the AKP government threw their way. The Gülen Brotherhood, with the police and judiciary at its beck and call, embarked on settling its own personal accounts. When this process reached its conclusion with no remaining enemy to be taken care of, the two ‘partners’ came to blows over the sharing of state power and the spoils.
7 February – the first rift
The first rift between the pair was witnessed in the form of the affair known as the MİT probe on 7 February 2012. The apparent target was the top echelons of the intelligence agency, but this was really the Prime-Minister of the day, Erdoğan. This initial crisis ended with the Gulenists taking a step backward before it had greatly escalated. However, the ‘forced marriage’ had broken down. In the aftermath of this affair, the ‘ugly divorce’ proceedings between the couple commenced.
The war, which broke out with the attempt to close the supplementary education centres which constituted the Gülen Brotherhood’s most important source of people and money, turned into an irreversible ‘all-out battle for control’ with the probe targeting the government and Erdoğan known as 17/25 December into graft, and that into the MİT trucks. With the AKP, emerging, albeit with a reduced share of the vote, as the first party in the general and local elections that came shortly later, it propelled its natural leader Erdoğan into the office of president a few months later, and this spelt the beginning of the end for the Gulenists.
Under Erdoğan’s instructions, a purge began of the Gulenists embedded within key parts of the civil service. The AKP, having, thanks to its overwhelming parliamentary majority, turned the law into its doormat and the executive and judiciary into its cudgel, embarked on what was virtually an erasure operation against the Gülen Brotherhood. Within the police force, many senior police officers who were alleged to be members of the Gülen Brotherhood were either remanded in custody or removed from their posts. Likewise, a great many judges and prosecutors who were known to be Gülen Brotherhood members embedded within the judiciary were moved to passive duties.
Various group companies were seized through the appointing of curators so as to deprive the Gülen Brotherhood of its sources of finance, as were media organisations know to belong to the Gulenists so as to put an end to their messages of opposition to the government.
When the Turkish Armed Forces’ turn came
The turn came of the Turkish Armed Forces, the place where the Gulenists, its organisation within the security arms of the civil service now gradually contracting with the probes that had been launched, had for decades concealed themselves most effectively. In the first two separate investigations initiated in Izmir and Ankara, tabs were kept on a few hundred officers who had been named as suspects. They appeared almost certain to be purged at the Council in August. Had the attempt of 15 July not been made, Prosecutor Okan Bato, who was leading the probe centred on Izmir, had decided to stage a massive raid targeting the Gulenist organisation within the Turkish Armed Forces in the early hours of the following morning. There was talk of several hundred officers being arrested in these raids.
The Gulenist soldiers, having learnt of these developments from sound sources, of necessity brought the coup they were planning to stage on another date forward and launched the bloody attempt on the evening of 15 July.
How the Gulenists took over the military
The indictment drafted in Ankara a few days ago into the coup attempt contained the appraisal that, “The Turkish Armed Forces did not break off connections with anybody it knew to be Gulenist after 2003. Subsequently, the initiative passed to the organisation. The Ergenekon and other military trials took place thanks to the sway exerted by the organisation over the Turkish Armed Forces.”
The Gülen Brotherhood used its forces in the police and judicial bodies to remove the barriers standing in its way inside the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). Drawing on the political support accruing from the partnership established with the AKP government, various trials were launched into illegal organisations on the pretext of prosecuting ‘coupists’ within the Turkish Armed Forces.
Ergenekon spawned a chain of lawlessness that lead to trials like Sledgehammer, Military Espionage and Poyrazköy at the end of 2010. The upshot of these trials was that hundreds of staff-officers were disqualified from promotion. A total of 61 generals and admirals were retired at the three annual Supreme Military Council conventions while the contrived trials were in process: 12, 37 and 12 in each subsequent year.
We get an idea of the way in which these trumped-up trials were exploited from the high degree of involvement in the coup attempt by the remaining staff-officers who were promoted in the environment of impaired competition once hundreds of officers had been removed from the system. By the time these cases had been adjudicated, the line-up for appointment and promotion within the military had changed beyond recognition.
Navy targeted first
The most efficacious trial for purging was undoubtedly Sledgehammer. At first sight, it may have appeared that army officers’ activities were the focus of the Sledgehammer trial in that it revolved around a planning seminar held within the First Army Command, but numbering among the 194 suspects were, alongside 22 admirals, 90 staff-officers from the Naval Forces Command whose turn had come or was about to come for promotion to admiral. Thanks to espionage and other such trials that were later launched in Istanbul and Izmir as the Sledgehammer proceedings were expanded under a further two indictments, another 50 or so naval officers were added to the list of those earmarked for purging. Some 140 naval staff-officers, subject to a block on promotion, were either expelled from the TAF or forced to depart.
The Sledgehammer indictment, under which a large number of naval staff-officers stood accused, was drafted at the beginning of the summer in 2010. Only seven staff-officers were promoted to rear admiral at the Supreme Military Council convention that was held at the beginning of August. Many staff-officers who were due for promotion to admiral were under criminal prosecution facing charges such as involvement in a coup and this disqualified them from promotion at the Supreme Military Council. As the first steps were taken to activate the purges, the field was left clear for those unimplicated by the Sledgehammer trial.
Fast tracked to Admiral
Many staff-officers who, thanks to the purging mechanism involving contrived probes/trials, had jumped to the front of the line were promoted to the rank of admiral at the Supreme Military Council conventions in the years after 2010, untrammelled by such obstacles. A significant number of these officers who had the organised purging of their rivals to thank for their promotion from staff-officer to rear admiral featured as actors in the bloody attempt of 15 July 2016. Prior to the coup attempt, 58 people were included in the rank of admiral in the Naval Forces Command, 51 of them in combat positions and seven in other areas. When we consider that 24 of them are on remand or have fled due to their involvement in the coup we can conclude that the Gulenists controlled nearly half the admiral-level positions in the Naval Forces Command in the lead up to the coup.
Sedat Ergin compiled the following breakdown in an article in Hürriyet newspaper in which he concluded that the roles in the coup attempt of the naval officers who had been promoted from staff-officer to admiral at the Supreme Military Councils over the six years since the Sledgehammer conspiracy, “indicate that, even though the Gulenists were in open conflict with the government following 17-25 December, their advances in the navy had been totally unaffected by this”:
2010 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL:
Ömer Faruk Harmancık, one of eight staff-officers to be promoted to admiral, has been remanded in custody as one of the leading actors on the naval front of the 15 July coup attempt, as Chief of the Staff of the Northern Sea Area Command in Istanbul. Although he was stationed in Istanbul, Rear-Admiral Harmancık was apprehended at the coup’s main headquarters in Ankara, the Akıncılar Air Base.
2011 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL:
Chief of the General Staff: Necdet Özel – Naval Forces Commander: Murat Bilgel. Of the seven staff-officers promoted to rear admiral at this council, two were remanded in custody last week for participation in the coup attempt and two are on the run.
2012 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL:
Chief of the General Staff: Necdet Özel – Naval Forces Commander: Murat Bilgel. At this council, eight staff-officers were promoted to rear admiral. In the aftermath of the coup, three of this batch are on remand and one is on the run.
2013 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL:
Chief of the General Staff: Necdet Özel – Naval Forces Commander: Murat Bilgel. This council would appear to have been a record year for the Gulenists, because, of the eight staff-officers to be promoted from captain to rear admiral, seven now stand accused of involvement in the coup attempt. Six have been remanded and one has fled.
One of the key figures in the coup attempt, former Air Force Commander Akın Öztürk, was promoted to full general and became air force commander in 2013, at a time when a large number of commanders had been remanded under the Sledgehammer plot. It was decided at the Supreme Military Council convention held in 2015 for Öztürk, whose post was transferred to Abidin Ünal, to remain a Supreme Military Council member for a further year.
2014 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL:
Chief of the General Staff: Necdet Özel – Naval Forces Commander: Bülent Bostanoğlu. Of the rear admirals who were promoted at this council, two have been remanded on the grounds of involvement in the coup attempt.
2015 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL:
Chief of the General Staff: Necdet Özel – Naval Forces Commander: Bülent Bostanoğlu. This was another bumper year for the Gulenists. Five of the seven naval officers promoted to rear admiral in this year stand accused of participation in the coup. In addition, Mustafa Zeki Uğurlu, still on the run in the USA, was promoted to vice admiral at this Supreme Military Council. A further three rear admirals who had been promoted that year were granted extensions at this council, meaning they were retained within the system in one way or another.
... AND THE ARMY
The purging and promotion operations witnessed in the navy also occurred in the army. A significant number of the generals who have been remanded in connection with the coup attempt had been promoted particularly at the Supreme Military Council conventions held in 2013, and those in 2014 and 2015. Of the 21 generals remanded in connection with the attempted coup, 18 were brigadier generals who had been promoted from colonel at the 2013 Supreme Military Council convention. A noteworthy point is that the first nine officers in line for promotion have all been remanded. As to those promoted in 2014, one was killed during the attempt and 19 generals have been remanded as suspects in the coup attempt, as have 22 generals from among those promoted in 2015. A comparative inspection of the Supreme Military Council decisions over the 2011-2015 period and the list of remanded generals produces the following breakdown:
2011 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL: The Deputy Chief of the General Staff and Army Commander was Full General Necdet Özel. At this council, 22 staff-officers were promoted to general; only three of these have been remanded. So, the proportion of these generals who got mixed up in the coup was low.
2012 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL: The Chief of the General Staff was Full General Necdet Özel and the Army Commander was Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu. Those in first and second line among the five major generals promoted to lieutenant-general at this council, Metin İyidil and Erdal Öztürk, have been remanded following 15 July. Only two of the 12 to become major generals at the same council have been remanded on grounds of coup involvement. Six of the 23 staff-officers promoted to brigadier general at the 2012 Supreme Military Council have been remanded following the coup attempt. There is a slight increase in the degree of involvement in the coup attempt by those promoted in this period.
2013 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL: The Chief of the General Staff was Full General Necdet Özel and the Army Commander was Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu. Of the 25 staff-officers promoted to brigadier general at this council, 18 have been remanded following 15 July. A noteworthy point is that all of the nine officers who first in line for promotion have been remanded.
2014 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL: The Chief of the General Staff was Full General Necdet Özel and the Army Commander was Hulusi Akar. A lieutenant-general, Adem Huduti, was promoted to full general at this council, and he was among those remanded during the coup attempt. Five major generals rose to the rank of lieutenant-general and, of these, İbrahim Yılmaz and Salih Ulusoy were remanded in the aftermath of 15 July. At the same convention, 11 brigadier generals became major generals. Today, five of these are on remand. What is most striking is that 21 staff-officers became brigadier generals and, of these, 12 are on remand today. This means that of these 21 brigadier generals, 12, making a percentage of 57, are today on remand. The proportion is 57%. Brigadier General Semih Terzi, the first of this batch and one of the leading protagonists in the coup attempt, was shot dead by junior officer Ömer Halisdemir while resisting a raid on the Special Forces Headquarters on the evening of 15 July.
2015 SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL: The Chief of the General Staff was Full General Necdet Özel and the Army Commander was Hulusi Akar. At this Supreme Military Council, six major generals were promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general. Two of these are on remand today. Of the nine generals to be promoted from brigadier general to major general, two have been remanded. One of them is the well-known Mehmet Dişli. As to the 26 officers who were promoted from colonel to general, 18 have been remanded in the aftermath of 15 July. The proportion is scary: 70%. This data as a whole points to the way the Supreme Military Council conventions of 2013, 2014 and 2015 served to fast track the generals with involvement in the coup attempt into their posts.
One of the figures closest to Akar, his aide-de-camp Levent Türkkan, has admitted to being a Gulenist.
Prime duty: To turn the military into an adjunct of the Gulenists
There is no known example of the Gülen Brotherhood, in all its organisational activities extending over 45 years, being involved in any violent act whatsoever. Various assertions have been raised in the pro-government media as to Gulenist involvement in certain assassinations and murders. However, no concrete evidence has been put forward to back up these assertions. The question as to why the Gulenists resorted to a coup attempt does not tax the understanding of those who have followed Turkish politics, the relations between these two important power centres in the near past and the tension-filled battle between them. For, had the coup not have been attempted, the Gulenists’ embedded presence within the TAF, the place where it had concealed itself best, would have constituted the last front in the frenetic battle that had been taking place for several years with the AKP. Another question that is weighing down on everyone’s mind is whether the Gulenists, whose presence within the military is thought to stretch back to the 1980’s, were strong enough to bring off a coup.
In the main indictment into the “Gülen Formation” drafted by Ankara Republic Chief Prosecution, certain claims are raised concerning the Gulenists’ embedded presence in the TAF. According to the indictment, which contains the pronouncement that, “The FETÖ formation within the TAF had assumed worrying dimensions,” there is talk of the Gulenists’ organisational activities within the military having accelerated after 1984 and most of the students who had been infiltrated into the TAF having risen to the rank of staff-officer, colonel or general. The indictment, which speaks of the expulsion from the army by Supreme Military Council decision of a total of 400 TAF staff between the years of 1983-2014 on suspicion of Gülen Brotherhood membership, concludes, “However, The Turkish Armed Forces did not break off connections with anybody it knew to be Gulenist after 2003. Subsequently, the initiative passed to the organisation. The Ergenekon and other military trials took place thanks, not to the elimination of military tutelage over civilian politics, but to the sway exerted by the organisation over the Turkish Armed Forces. Today, there is a significant presence in terms of staff-officers having FETÖ membership in the TAF. Their obligatory and prime duty, in line with the organisation’s political goals, is to turn the military into an adjunct of the Gulenists and to take it under control. There exists an organised TAF brotherhood formation that does not come under the remit of military discipline and its hierarchy.”
If one were to go by the AKP government and the Turkish media as a whole, responsibility for this bloody coup attempt lies with members of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ). The most important evidence in corroboration of this thesis are the statements made at the public prosecutor’s office by certain soldiers who are alleged to have had a role in the coup attempt. The maker of one of the most important statements is Lieutenant Colonel Levent Türkkan, who acted as aide-de-camp to Chief of the General Staff Full-General Hulusi Akar. He described in his statement that has been leaked to the press how the Gülen Brotherhood, of which Türkkan says he is a member, planned the coup and was listening in on Full-General Hulusi Akar via a bug that he himself had planted in his office. However, it would appear from photographs carried by the media of Türkkan, the maker of this statement to which so much importance is attached, that his ribs and hands had been broken and he had undergone severe torture.
The apprehension while acting in consort with the coupists of certain police officers who had been dismissed from the profession or removed from their posts due to various probes and who are alleged to be members of the Gülen Brotherhood strengthen the suspicions pointed at the Gulenists. One of these police officers, Police Intelligence Branch Deputy Director Gürsel Aktepe explained at the prosecutor’s office that he went into action after having received the following message on his phone: “The coup is on; let everyone come out in support; proceed to the vicinity of their former workplaces and enter communications with General Mehmet.”
The maker of the most damning statement as to the coup attempt’s Gulenist connection is Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar. Akar has recounted how on the evening of 15 July, when he was asked to append his signature to the coup declaration after he had been taken hostage, he was told, “If you wish, we can arrange for you to speak to our opinion leader, Fethullah Gülen.” Akar said that the maker of this proposal was brigadier general Hakan Evrim, the commander of the Akıncı Air Base, the coup’s headquarters in Ankara, but the former rejected it saying, “I won’t speak to anybody.” Evrim, conversely, has said in his statement in which he has rejected both Akar’s statements and the accusations, “I am not acquainted with Fethullah Gülen.”
The bloody evening draws ever closer
According to the police memorandum drafted into the 15 July coup attempt, work began on the coup infrastructure in January 2016. The available intelligence suggests that preparations for the coup were in full swing in the TAF by 8 July.
No definitive information has emerged over when the 15 July coup attempt, one of the bloodiest putsch attempts in Turkey’s political history, was planned and the stages involved in its preparation.
It would scarcely have been possible to plan and organise such an attempt in a few days. It is possible to hazard guesses about how this was done based on information that has so far been leaked to the media and the statements of certain suspects.
A ‘draft memorandum’ has been compiled by the Ankara Anti-Terror Branch Directorate into the planning of the coup, collated from digital data examination, phone calls and the statements of confessors and suspects.
According to the police memorandum that is still under preparation, work on the coup infrastructure began in January 2016. It is claimed that the coup order was forwarded by Fethullah Gülen to professor of divinity Adil Öksüz, alleged to have been the organisation’s person with top responsibility for the TAF. Öksüz, who at this stage in the process was making constant trips abroad, passed on the plans for the coup to the organisation leader and generals at commander level who would participate in the coup. One allegation made is that Öksüz held meetings in Ankara on various dates and at different addresses with coupist military staff within the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) in the course of these preparations. From the accounts given by the secret witnesses with the aliases ‘Raven’ and ‘Hat’, who have given statements in the investigation being conducted by Izmir Republic Chief Prosecution, the coup planning was conducted in a villa in Ankara. The secret witnesses asserted that soldiers and civilians who they claimed to be “the top echelons of the FETÖ/PDY organisation” attended the meetings. Coup preparations intensified considerably in the June-July period. According to the draft memorandum, Adil Öksüz, who passed on Fethullah Gülen’s orders and planned the coup together with military personnel, and Kemal Batmaz, who was captured in footage giving orders to armed forces staff at the Akıncı Air Base on the evening of 15 July, were the top two figures in the coup’s civilian grouping.
The junta’s military leader
The anti-terror police’s findings indicate the coup’s military leader to be the Head of the Chief of the General Staff’s Personnel Plan and Management Department, Brigadier General Mehmet Partigöç?, who signed the Lightning Operation Plan on the evening of the coup and sent it to units around the country. Partigöç, whose signature also appeared on the ‘Peace at Home Council’ declaration that was read at gunpoint on state television, was revealed from the examination of digital data emanating from the evening of the coup at the Chief of the General Staff Headquarters to have been the military staff member at the head of the chain of command in Turkey as a whole. Also contained in the file are allegations that Partigöç, who is said to have given the orders on the evening of the attempt, further, prior to the coup, supplied the commanders involved in the coup with the places where they would serve and lists of other military staff who would act under their orders. It is also asserted that the list of those who would act as commander of provinces where martial law was to be proclaimed was drawn up and forwarded to the relevant people by Partigöç.
According to the police, Major General Mehmet Dişli, brother of the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s Deputy General Chair Şaban Dişli, was the second highest person in the coup’s military grouping. As to the duty assigned on the evening of the putsch to Dişli, Head of the Chief of the General Staff’s Project Management Department, this was to detain members of the chain of command who resisted the coup and to persuade them to participate in the coup.
Coup preparations in full swing
The only indication until now of when the coup preparations began comes from certain suspects’ statements to the public prosecution. According to these statements, over the four days from 11 July a meeting was held every evening at the Akıncı Main Jet Base Command. The venue for putschists’ coup planning meetings in Istanbul, on the other hand, was the Air Force School building in Yeşilköy. The available information points to coup preparations being in full swing within the TAF by 8 July.
THE DOCUMENT THAT CONTRADICTS FULL GENERAL ÖZEL
Following the attempted coup, former Chief of the General Staff Necdet Özel has come in for more criticism than anybody else, standing accused of not taking effective action over the Gülen Brotherhood’s presence within the TAF despite the warnings. Özel, branding the accusations “unfounded”, has countered that all tip-offs and allegations were examined in both judicial and administrative terms and the documents relating to this are present in the Chief of the General Staff’s archives. However, a document dated 4 January 2016 unearthed within the coup investigation has contradicted Necdet Özel’s account of events.
The document, obtained during a search conducted at the Chief of the General Staff’s Personnel Directorate following the coup attempt, proves that the Gulenists were able to carry on organising within the TAF despite intelligence units’ reports and warnings. The document contains the results of an investigation conducted by the Chief of the General Staff’s Personnel and Intelligence Directorates into 1774 military personnel who had been named as “personnel with FETÖ connections”.
It was reported in the document that was submitted for the Chief of the General Staff’s approval that nothing untoward had been detected as to 1277 of the named military staff, while 457 of them needed to be investigated in detail. It would emerge in the probe launched in the aftermath of the coup that, of the 1774 military staff who had been named months earlier but continued in their posts, 1668 participated in the attempt. In fact, those who signed the reports clearing them would also be remanded as coup suspects.
Chronology of the coup
8 JULY / ANKARA
There is a reference in Lieutenant Colonel Mural Bolat’s statements to the coup first being spoken of on 8 July. Lieutenant Colonel Bolat, Battalion Commander at the Army Aviation Regiment at Ankara Güvercinlik, learnt of the coup from the Regiment Deputy Commander Lieutenant Colonel Halil Gül in a video call the latter made to him via a smartphone. In his statement, Bolat, stating that Regiment Commander Lieutenant Colonel Fevzi Okka and his Deputy Lieutenant Colonel Gül had called him while he was on leave between the dates of 1-16 July and asked him to cut his holiday short, but he refused to do this, said, “Gül, in the video call I had on 8 July, made a gesticulation calling for silence, mouthed the words, ‘The situation is very grave’ and showed me a 9-mm diameter bullet. It was then that I realised he was trying to explain something very important.”
12 JULY 19:00 HOURS / ISTANBUL
According to the indictment drafted by Istanbul Republic Chief Prosecution, meetings were held at the General Nurettin Baransel Barracks in Maltepe over three days. It has been established from camera footage that the units in Istanbul participated at the meetings on 12, 13 and 14 July. It is alleged in the indictment that the WhatsApp group named ‘Peace at Home’ used by the putschists was created at the meeting that commenced at 19:00 hours on 12 July and ended at 01:30 hours on 14 July. It has also been established from camera footage that Brigadier General Özkan Aydoğdu, Major General Eyüp Gürler, former commander of the Kuleli Military High School Mürsel Çıkrıkçı and Kahramanmaraş Garrison Commander Uzay Şahin participated at the meeting.
12 JULY / ANKARA
According to the statements of suspects and secret witnesses, a group of the coupists were holding meetings at the coup’s Ankara headquarters of Akıncı Air Base. Discussed at these meetings were details such as who would be assigned where in the putsch, which units would participate in the putsch and who would be placed in detention, and preparations for the coup of which ever more officers were becoming aware were proceeding rapidly. Lieutenant Colonel Ümit Gençer, stationed in the Presidential Guard Regiment Command, learnt of the putsch with three days to go. According to his statement before a judge, Gençer learnt of the putsch when Colonel Enver Topal, who had summoned him on 12 July, told him, “I have taken up a duty; there will be a coup at about 3 o’ clock in the morning on Friday.” Lieutenant Colonel Gençer was to learn of his duty from Presidential Guard Regiment Commander Colonel Kutsi Barış at 20:30 on the evening of 15 July: He was to see to it that the coup declaration that was thrust into his hand containing the martial law order signed by the Chief of the General Staff was read on state television.
14 JULY / ANKARA
Brigadier General Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş met up with Major Şükrü Seymen of the Special Forces Command, one of those in charge of the Marmaris team, in Ankara. According to Major Seymen’s statement, after having met Colonel Osman Kılıç, who like himself served in the Special Forces Command, he met up with Sönmezateş in a house whose address he does not remember. As per his statement, Brigadier General Sönmezateş gave him the order: “Assemble a twelve-person team, yourself included. I will supply the arms, equipment and helicopter. The TAF will take power within the chain of command. If need be, Davut Uçum can have you transferred by helicopter.”
14 JULY / ANKARA - OSTİM
On the same day at 19:00, the three lieutenant colonels went together in two cars along with Major Okan Kocakurt from Army Aviation to a flat in an apartment complex in Ankara’s Ostim. According to Bolat’s statement, there were another four people who he imagined to be from Special Forces Command. Bolat recounted how at this meeting, at which he says he was not included, the seven officers discussed the final coordination of the coup. Bolat says that the discussions continued into the night and the plan was to be put into action at 03:00 hours in the morning on 16 July. However, Bolat, who thought that they had been rumbled during high-level inspections conducted at the bases at about 18:00 on 15 July, realised that the plan had not been abandoned on hearing Lieutenant Colonel Halil Gül say, “Come on, we’re starting.”
With the words, “Action is commencing,” he went to Akar’s room
While the 15 July putschists’ final meetings were in progress, a major went to the intelligence service (MİT) and gave a tip-off about a raid and an assassination. MİT passed the information on to the General Staff and an extraordinary meeting was held. While a whole host of measures were being taken and announced, certain commanders were heading for two separate weddings totally unaware of this order.
Feverish preparations were going on at the General Staff Headquarters on 15 July. The coupists were holding their final meetings. Meanwhile, a major went the MİT Undersecretariat and gave a tip-off: A raid would be staged on MİT and Hakan Fidan or top-ranking people would be assassinated.
MİT passed on the information to the General Staff and, at a meeting attended by the Chief of the General Staff, the Second Chief of the General Staff and the Commander of the Land Forces, later to be joined by the MİT Undersecretary, a whole host of measures were taken: All military flights were to be banned. Armoured vehicles were not to leave their units.
Curiously, certain commanders were on their way to two different weddings or were heading home totally unaware of this order. After MİT Undersecretary Fidan had left the General Staff, Major General Mehmet Dişli, having said, “Action is commencing. It has been brought forward from three in the morning to now,” went to Akar’s room.
Informer from the military goes to MİT
-15 JULY AFTERNOON / GENERAL STAFF
Full General Akar’s aide-de-camp, Levent Türkkan, was at a meeting together with Colonel Orhan Yıkılkan, who had told him the day before that a coup would be staged, in Major General Mehmet Dişli’s room, in whom he had confided, in common with the latter, to having Gulenist membership. Türkan gave the following account in his statements to the public prosecution: “There were just the three of us in the room. As soon as we entered, we began to discuss the matter of the coup. Major General Mehmet Dişli said he would go on his own to General Hulusi Akar’s room before the coup attempt started and notify him of the coup and, should he accept, he would assume command of coup action. In saying this, he commented, ‘I will ask the Chief of the General Staff if he wants to be Kenan Evren or not.’ He also told us that, in notifying the Chief of the General Staff of the coup, he would tell him that we liked and respected him and, should he accept, they would place him at the head of the coup. He was holding a piece of notepaper. He wrote down one by one what he was going to say to the Chief of the General Staff. From his comments, it appeared that, if Hulusi Akar agreed to assume command of the coup action, the Second Chief of the General Staff would be Full General Akın Öztürk.
15 JULY 14.45 HOURS /ANKARA - YENİMAHALLE
At the time preparations were underway at the Chief of Staff, an unknown officer identified only as H.A. who serves in the rank of major at the Army Aviation School turned up at MİT headquarters and, having introduced himself, said that he wanted to pass on a tip-off on a very important matter. After a short wait, Major H.A. told the officials who were brought before him what he knew. However, contrary to what has been believed until now, the tip-off was not that a coup was imminent. The major said that there was going to be a raid on MİT and Hakan Fidan or top-ranking people would be assassinated.
15 JULY 15.30 HOURS / ANKARA - ÇANKAYA
The person who was going to tip the coupist Fırat Alakuş as to which hotel the President was staying at in Marmaris was Erdoğan’s chief aide-de-camp Ali Yazıcı. Fırat Alakuş and Emir Güven went to the Presidential Guard Regiment at 15:30 on 15 July and met up with Ali Yazıcı to make final plans for the most important phase of the putsch. On Yazıcı’s desk were some satellite images and plans marked “Marmaris” on which certain tourist facilities were marked. According to Güven’s statement, Yazıcı said, “I’ll go and see the President and find out where he is. They won’t suspect me.” If there was any bother, Yazıcı was going to point to an empty envelope in his hand and say that he had brought an envelope from the General Staff containing important information about the Parallel Structure.
15 JULY 16.03 HOURS / ANKARA - YENİMAHALLE
With the interview with Major H.A. continuing at MİT, an investigation was also conducted as to who this unknown informer was and it was discovered that H.A., who had not previously been a source of regular information, had his Gulenist contacts to thank for helping him to find his wife. The informant H.A. passed on the names of two officers whom he knew to have been assigned to this operation apart from him. Finally, once they were sure about the content of the tip-off, the information was passed on to Undersecretary Hakan Fidan.
15 JULY 17.04 HOURS / İSTANBUL - BAĞCILAR
One of those who gave testimony to the commission set up by parliament to investigate the coup attempt was Colonel Davut Ala, who was shot while resisting the coupists in the course of the putsch. Colonel Ala brought up an interesting detail in his testimony. Colonel Ala said that on the day of the coup a message came on his mobile phone saying: “Warning about demonstrations on 15-16-17 July in Ayasofya, Taksim and Sultanahmet, on Marmaray suburban railway, underground and ferry services, and in Sancaktepe, Fatih and Kartal.” Ala, noting that this message was suspicious, said, “Virtually everywhere in Istanbul had been covered by a demonstration warning. Normally, a demonstration warning comes but it is for a specific area. A demonstration warning for everywhere in Istanbul for three days running. It was obvious from this that preparations were in the making.”
15 JULY 17.00 HOURS / GENERAL STAFF
According to Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar’s statement, the Second Chief of the General Staff Full General Yaşar Güler passed on the information forthcoming from MİT. Full General Akar took the information forwarded from MİT seriously and began to hold a meeting with Yaşar Güler and Commander of the Land Forces, Salih Zeki Çolak, over the measures to be taken. MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan also came to the General Staff and joined the meeting with Full General Akar.
15 JULY 18.30 HOURS / GENERAL STAFF
At the meeting at which Hakan Fidan was also present, the measures to be taken took shape. With a flight ban imposed on military helicopters and planes within Turkish air space as a whole, it was decided to order those in the air to return to base. Once Second Chief of the General Staff Yaşar Güler had conveyed the order in question to the Air Force Command and Control Centre, the order for all air force planes’ flights to be halted was conveyed to all bases. Akar also said in his statement that as part of the measures to counter a possible putsch he ordered Commander of the Land Forces, Salih Zeki Çolak, to take staff from Central Command and the Legal Advice Section and go to the Army Aviation Academy and settle the matter in a way that would leave no room for doubt and to take administrative and judicial measures in a speedy manner. Akar, saying, “In our assessment of the forthcoming information we concluded that it might be part of a bigger plan,” did not stop at the measures taken and went on to telephone Ankara Garrison Commander, Lieutenant General Metin Gürak, and assign him a duty. This was for Gürak to go to the Etimesgut Armoured Units Division and take precautions to ensure that no tank or armoured vehicle left the unit for any reason whatsoever.
Countermove by the coupists
15 JULY 19.26 HOURS / GENERAL STAFF
Procedures to halt flights as per the General Staff’s orders had been completed. Headquarters’ instruction for flights to be halted and for planes on duty in the air to be grounded had been forwarded to the Air Force Control Centre and all units were notified of this directive by the Air Control Centre in Eskişehir. At 19:56 hours, to confirm that the decisions taken had reached all units, the directive and orders were sent once more by way of confirmation. The coupists, who realised why the commanders were meeting with MİT administrators at the Chief of the General Staff Headquarters, made a countermove. First, they wanted to get rid of the military staff they thought would resist them from Headquarters. One of these was the non-commissioned officer Mahir Eser from Chief of the General Staff Full General Hulusi Akar’s protection squad. Eser gave the following account of events in statements he gave to the police and public prosecution, “While I was on sentry duty in front of the commander’s office an announcement was made over the radio at about 20:00 to prepare for departure. The guard cars and Akar’s staff car came. But, a little later, the order came from the adjutancy office for all guard cars to be withdrawn to the garage. The cars were withdrawn.
I was approached by Reconnaissance Element Team Commander, Sergeant-Major İsa, who relieved me and he told me there was not going to be a departure any more. While I was walking along the corridor, I saw non-commissioned officer Talha, who dealt with the Special Forces’ computer business, in civilian dress coming along the opposite corridor where the Second Chief of the General Staff was located in the direction of Akar’s adjutancy office. I was surprised, because it was normally impossible for a non-commissioned officer to be in that corridor. After the adjutants greeted non-commissioned officer Talha in a familiar manner, they went together to their office. My suspicion was aroused and I hung about for a while. Then, because the Protection Director was on leave, I went to Sergeant-Major Muharrem Uzun who was filling in for him, and asked him. He replied, ‘I don’t know, either.’”
Unaware of the orders
15 JULY 20.31 HOURS / GENERAL STAFF
MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan left the Chief of Staff Headquarters. To confirm the order, the instructions were sent for a third time to all units. However, although orders prohibiting land and air movements of any kind had been announced, curiously, certain forces and army commanders, unaware of these orders, were on their way to two separate weddings in Istanbul and Ankara or were heading home. According to Lieutenant Colonel Levent Türkkan’s statement, the operation started following Hakan Fidan’s departure and twenty fully equipped soldiers from Special Forces Command entered Headquarters. At this point, Major General Mehmet Dişli, having said, “Action is commencing. It has been brought forward from three in the morning to now,” went to Akar’s room.
‘Commander, it’s a done deal and everyone has set out.’
At 9 pm on the evening of the attempted coup, Major General Mehmet Dişli entered Chief of the General Staff Akar’s room and tried to win him over to the coup. With this ending in failure, the sound of gunfire began to ring out from headquarters. In Istanbul, on the other hand, the tanks had long since rolled out onto the streets.
On the evening of 15 July, Major General Mehmet Dişli entered Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar’s room and his proclamation, “Commander, the operation is starting,” met with a stern reaction from Akar. Dişli, unable to win Akar over, left the room and ordered the soldiers who had come from Special Forces Command to go into Akar’s room.
A while later, the sound of gunfire began to ring out from the Chief of Staff Headquarters and warplanes were flying low over Ankara. In Istanbul, the bridges were being closed by armoured units. With posts appearing on social media about the tanks in the streets, news of the coup attempt spread throughout the country and Turkey dug in for a long night.
What operation? Are you crazy?
* 15 JULY EVENING / GENERAL STAFF
Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar recounted the following, noting, “While I am not fully certain, it was probably approaching 21:00 hours,” in the statement he gave to the public prosecution following the coup attempt:
“While I was working with my back to the door at the round meeting table, there was a knock at the door. I said, ‘Enter,’ and I even said something like: ‘Who’s that at this time?’ When I looked, I saw that Major General Dişli who served at Headquarters had come. Dişli sat on one of the chairs at the table at which I was sitting and said things like, ‘Commander, the operation is starting. We will take everybody. The battalions and brigades have gone out into the streets. You will see in a short while,’ in a manner that different greatly from his temperament that I had known and been accustomed to in the past. At first, I could not make any sense of it. He may perhaps have said ‘planes’ when he spoke. But, I realised that this was an operation that I can describe as a putsch and I shouted furiously, ‘What are you talking about, jerk? What operation? Are you crazy? Give me a break!’ I asked where the Second Chief of the General Staff and the other commanders were. He replied to me saying things like, ‘Don’t get worked up. Calm down. They’ll come.’ I kept on furiously fielding questions like, ‘I will have nothing to do with you or with anybody else or those involved in such things. How dare you speak to me like this? Who are they? Who are you all?’ I had got very angry. I told them the path they had taken was wrong, they had landed themselves in a huge quagmire, they would pay the price and told them, if nothing else, to do the decent thing and halt this business before others got embroiled in it and before it became a matter of life and death, and to put a stop to this putsch that they had just embarked on. But I was unable to persuade him. He tried to keep his temper even though I had come out in such furious opposition and, appearing calm, said things like, ‘Commander, it’s a done deal and everyone has set out.’ Because my back was to the door, I did not notice if the door was open or shut. At this point, I think Mehmet Dişli made a move to go out.
THEY THROTTLED AKAR
* 15 JULY 20.50 HOURS / GENERAL STAFF
According to their statements, Aide-de-Camp Türkkan was waiting in front of the office door with Colonel Orhan Yıkılkan, Military Assistant Colonel Ramazan Gözen, Captain Serdar Tekin, and Senior Master Sergeant Abdullah Erdoğan who served on the protection squad. Beside them were also fully equipped soldiers with arms and helmets wearing training gear who had come from Special Forces Command. They could not hear what Dişli and Akar were saying. Aide-de-Camp Türkkan said that when Mehmet Dişli, who came out five minutes after he entered the room, gave the order directed at them as soon as he emerged, “He’s in the midst. Go in.”
According to Türkkan’s statements, once in the room, which the officers who served closest to Full General Akar entered along with Dişli followed by the fully equipped soldiers who had come from Special Forces Command, they heard their commander address the following to them: “You’re making a mistake. This is not on.” Aide-de-Camp Türkkan, holding a pistol pointed at Akar, shouted, “Commander, sit down and don’t get up. Calm down and don’t cause difficulties.”
Akar, who states that at this juncture somebody pushed him and made him sit on the chair, gave the following description in his statement of how he was beaten: “At that moment, somebody else from behind covered both my mouth and nose with something like a hand towel and tried to stop me breathing. He wrapped his arm round my throat and pulled it tight. While I was flailing around because I was having difficulty breathing with an object like a string being rubbed at my throat, somebody else put plastic handcuffs on my wrists. With me resisting like this, they closed my mouth so as to leave my nose open.”
Aide-de-Camp Türkkan, who indicated in his statement that it was Captain Serdar Tekin who covered the commander’s mouth, sat Akar on one of the chairs after putting the revolver he was holding down to one side. Akar, given the water he asked for and having drunk it, made the most extraordinary request of the far from ordinary evening at General Staff Headquarters. Akar, even under these conditions, said he wanted to perform ritual ablution and prayer. According to Aide-de-Camp Türkkan’s statement, Akar changed clothes in the rear portion of the office in the presence of Captain Serdar Tekin and Senior Master Sergeant Abdullah Erdoğan and performed his prayer.
According to the statements, Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar was unwilling to cooperate with the junta. The Special Forces Command team members that had split up within Headquarters were handcuffing and detaining everyone the coupist military men pointed out, acting together with certain civilians. At about 21:30, Second Chief of the General Staff Yaşar Güler was also manhandled and detained in his office by a group from the Special Forces Command team under Adjutant Mehmet Akkurt’s command. Meanwhile, a clash erupted outside Headquarters between the coupists and the commanders’ guards.
Sound of gunfire at Headquarters
* 15 JULY 21.35 HOURS/ GENERAL STAFF
Full General Salih Zeki Çolak, who was unaware that the putsch had started, came to General Staff Headquarters on being phoned by Aide-de-Camp Levent Türkkan. Türkkan told him, “Commander, our Chief of the General Staff is awaiting you and especially Chief of Staff İhsan Uyar,” and he complied with this order. Çolak, thinking that the Special Forces Command soldiers he saw while they were entering Headquarters were there on an exercise, suddenly heard gunfire. He now imagined there to be an attack from outside and the Special Forces Command teams were at Headquarters for protective purposes. While he was getting out of his car, he heard the voice of the Chief of the General Staff’s Military Assistant Staff Officer Ramazan Gözel, not knowing him to be in the ranks of the coupists, calling him to come into the building. It was only after Çolak entered along with Chief of Staff İhsan Uyar and the Special Forces Command teams put guns to their heads and made them lie on the floor that he realised what had happened. At this moment, Adjutant Infantry Sergeant Major Bülent Aydın, who set about resisting the team members, was killed. Commanders Çolak and Uyar had their hands and feet handcuffed in Full General Yaşar Güler’s room to which they were taken and were left waiting with bags placed over their heads.
The Prime-Ministerial Coordination Centre was informed that gunfire had been heard at the General Staff Complex. When officials at the Armed Forces Command Operations Control Centre were phoned, they replied that an exercise by the quick reaction squad was underway.
* 15 JULY 21.45 HOURS / ANKARA
The go-ahead was given for the F-16s, used in the air raids that caused the greatest amount of damage in the putsch, to take off. Despite the order banning flights, as of 21.45 hours take-offs started from certain military bases using various identification codes and call signs. Allegations have it that the figure directing the air operations was Air Pilot Staff Lieutenant Colonel Hakan Karakuş, commander of Squadron 141 at Akıncı Base, whose in-laws are Brigadier General Hakan Evrim and Akın Öztürk.
The putsch, whose launch had been slated for three in the morning of 16 July, was brought forward when it became clear that they had been rumbled. Once they were informed that the chain of command had been taken hostage at the General Staff, the coupists moved into action. At the same time as gunfire was ringing out from Headquarters, warplanes were flying in the skies over the capital, performing low flights and breaking the sound barrier at times. After F-16s had started performing low flights over the area in which parliament and General Staff Headquarters are situated, another call was made to the Armed Forces Command Operations Control Centre. Once more, the reply forthcoming was that an exercise was underway. In these same minutes, work was in progress on preparing the F-16 warplanes that would be used in the air raid staged on the Police Special Operations Directorate and the Aviation Branch Directorate situated in Gölbaşı.
* 15 JULY 22.30 HOURS / GENERAL STAFF
The top-level commanders, having been detained by the coupists including some of the officers closest to them, were to be taken to the junta’s headquarters, the Akıncı Base. At Major General Mehmet Dişli’s command of, “We’re going,” Special Forces Command soldiers put Hulusi Akar on board a helicopter. In the helicopter, alongside the soldiers who had their guns trained on Akar, was Mehmet Dişli. At about 22:30, Salih Zeki Çolak and İhsan Uyar were also bundled onto another helicopter. A twenty-minute flight saw Çolak and Uyar transported to Akıncı, just like the other detained commanders. Brigadier General Atilla Gökesaoğlu and Brigadier General Ertuğrulgazi Özkürkçü were also detained at General Staff Headquarters and brought to Akıncı.
* 15 JULY 22.30 HOURS / ISTANBUL - MODA
Certain forces and army commanders were not even aware of the hive of activity that had started in the afternoon at General Staff Headquarters and the host of measures that had been taken. Even though national air space had been closed to military flights, Air Force Commander Full General Abidin Ünal had for some reason not been informed of this order. Commander Ünal had not interrupted his habitual programme and had gone to the wedding of his comrade in arms Air Force Lieutenant General Mehmet Şanver’s daughter at Istanbul Moda Sea Club to which he had been invited. All the generals and top level commanders making up the Air Force top brass had also come to Istanbul for the wedding. Despite having been proposed as the marriage witness, former Air Force Commander Full General Akın Öztürk intimated that he would be unable to attend and made a daytime congratulatory phone call. A further figure who did not accept the wedding invitation was Brigadier General Hakan Evrim, commander of Main Jet Base No 4 at Akıncı, the coupists’ headquarters.
Having learnt of the coup, Full General Ünal, having no idea that his detention was imminent, and the other 24 generals attending the wedding retired to a room in the club and began to assess the situation. Full General Ünal, giving the warning that, “If there is any flight from any base, the commander there will be court martialled,” asked all the base commanders in his presence to call their bases and check out the situation.
“A huge gift from God’
With jets making sonic booms over Turkey, the Prime-Minister came on television to announce that there had been a putsch. When President Erdoğan landed at Istanbul, he was to say, “This is a huge gift from God.”
In the hours when people were trying to make sense of the explosions heard in Ankara and Istanbul, Prime-Minister Yıldırım, declaring the events to be a “putsch,” announced that a group within the TAF was attempting a coup. As to the coupists, they were having the declaration signed by the “Peace at Home Council” read out on state television.
President Erdoğan, who had not made an appearance for days, called, first from the hotel in Marmaris where he was on holiday and then appearing live on CNN Türk television, on citizens to take to the city streets and airports and he also urged citizens to resist the coup.
The coupist soldiers, for their part, were trying to pin Erdoğan down. By the time the coupists had definitively identified Erdoğan’s location, the latter had left the hotel where he had been staying and had set out for Istanbul. When he landed at Istanbul, he commented, “This action is a huge gift from God to us.”
* 15 JULY EVENING
With the four generals who were at the wedding in Istanbul setting off for the Control Centre in Eskişehir under orders from Air Force Commander Full General Abidin Ünal, the host of the wedding, commander Mehmet Şanver, called his former commander, Akın Öztürk. Öztürk, on being informed that flights were taking place counter to orders and low flights were being performed, replied that he had no knowledge of anything, even though he was at the Akıncı Air Base. Full General Ünal took the phone and asked Akın Öztürk, “They’re flying planes in Ankara. What’s going on over there? Are they holding a coup contrary to your orders?” Öztürk’s reply from the base that was the coup’s headquarters was curious, “I suspect it is just night flying. I’ll look into it.”
At this juncture, the commanders were trying to neutralise the Air Control Centre in Ankara, which appeared to be under the coupists’ control. Orders for all military flights were to be taken, not from Ankara, but from the Air Control Centre in Eskişehir and all bases were notified. Within a short space of time, there were no uncontrolled flights anywhere apart from Ankara Akıncı, Adana İncirlik and Balıkesir.
* 15 JULY 23.05 HOURS
With news of the explosions and sounds of shooting being heard in Ankara and Istanbul spreading through social media, the first official figure to proclaim that a coup attempt was underway was Prime-Minister Binali Yıldırım. Prime-Minister Yıldırım linked up by phone to the NTV station and, declaring the events to be a “putsch,” announced that a group within the TAF was attempting a coup.
The putschists’ bloodiest attack was the one targeting the Police Special Operations Directorate in Gölbaşı. The first attack on the Special Operations centre, which was capable of conducting air raids and would be the most important unit in any armed resistance to the coupists, was staged at 23:16. Seven police officers lost their lives in the first air raid carried out by the putschists targeting the helicopter runway. The main toll was taken in the second bombing raid staged with F-16s. This was at 23:58, before the fire left behind by the first attack had been put out. This attack took the lives of 43 policemen.
* 16 JULY 00.13 HOURS / ANKARA - TURKISH RADIO AND TELEVISION CORPORATION STUDIO
A group of coupists who had raided the state television studios in Ankara had the coup declaration signed by the “Peace at Home Council” read out. Shortly after the declaration had been read out, the Türksat Satellite Communications and Cable TV Operations Company blacked out state television.
The entrance to Ankara Police Headquarters, another of the putschists’ targets, was blocked with riot control vehicles as a precaution against possible attack. The coupists arrived at the front of police headquarters, which they wanted to capture, at 00:21 and started to clear the blocked path by pushing riot control vehicles with tanks. Even if at this moment a clash erupted to the sound of intense gunfire, it was not long before the tanks had taken control of the entry to the headquarters. They came under fire from citizens who wanted to resist them as well as police officers, whom the coupists were calling on to surrender.
President makes his first appearance
* 16 JULY 00.24 HOURS / MARMARİS
President Erdoğan, accustomed to appearing on a daily basis before the cameras and speaking, had most astonishingly not made an appearance ever since 9 July. Despite all the tumult of the evening, it was past midnight before the coupists’ prime target, Erdoğan, first broke his silence. No TV station or news agency picked up any of the comments made by Erdoğan when he first appeared before local stations and journalists in Marmaris after security measures had been put in place.
It was 00:24 when Erdoğan, who says that these initial comments of his could not be broadcast due to various technical problems, appeared for the first time on a TV station broadcasting nationally. CNN Türk’s Ankara News Manager Hande Fırat linked Erdoğan into a live broadcast by means of the Facetime application that enables video chat over smart phones. In his comment, Erdoğan, stating, as had those before him, that a coup attempt was being made by, “A small minority within the TAF,” announced the Gülen Brotherhood to be the culprit behind the putsch by saying it was, “A move incited by the parallel structure.” Erdoğan, also urged citizens, calling on them to take to the city streets and airports, to resist the coup.
It now became clear who the victor would be in the coup attempt
* 16 JULY 00.30 HOURS/ IZMIR - ÇİĞLİ
Brigadier General Gökhan Sönmezateş and Major Şükrü Seymen, while awaiting definitive news of the place where President Erdoğan was staying, went over the plan. Under the plan, Special Forces Command teams would stage the operation to detain President Erdoğan while the Combat Search and Rescue team would provide cover. According to Major Seymen, the 27-man team would easily pull off the operation because the President and his three or four-man guard team “would be in holiday mode.” The putschist brigadier general approached the teams who were strapping on their equipment. Brigadier General Gökhan Sönmezateş, whose past military successes had become something of a legend so much were they spoken of and who aroused admiration and respect in all the officers making up the raid team, passed on the sought-after news:
“The Turkish Armed Forces have seized power throughout the country. Martial law has been proclaimed. From now on orders will be given by the Chief of the General Staff’s office with which I am in communication.”
* 16 JULY 00.40 HOURS / DALAMAN AIRPORT
President Erdoğan, whose whereabouts the putschists were still trying to determine and whom they aimed to detain, if need be in an armed clash, had completed his preparations to depart from Marmaris not long after his television appearance. The awaited news came at last. The plane that would pick Erdoğan up from Marmaris and take him to Istanbul had left Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport and landed at Dalaman Airport. To confuse the coupists, who were believed to be monitoring air traffic, the dedicated presidential plane TC-ATA was given the appearance of a civil flight with the code THY-8451. Although President Erdoğan had appeared live on a TV station and said that he was going to Istanbul, the operation team was still waiting for news to go to Marmaris.
* 16 JULY 01.30 HOURS / IZMIR - ÇİĞLİ
Finally, the news that Brigadier General Gökhan Sönmezateş most needed came. One of the coupists at Akıncı Base, Lieutenant Colonel Hüseyin Yılmaz, intimated that the President was at the Grand Yazıcı Club Turban Hotel in Marmaris’s İçmeler area. At this very time, Erdoğan was heading along with his family for Dalaman Airport in a helicopter that was rising from the hotel. Meanwhile, the call Erdoğan had made from television screens had resonated and one of the main places to which citizens poured was Atatürk Airport. At 01:00, the soldiers who had taken over the control tower were arrested. The plane carrying Erdoğan took off from Dalaman once news had been given that Atatürk Airport had been cleansed. With the clocks pointing to 03:18, while the wheels of the plane TC-ATA were touching down on the runway in Istanbul, the helicopters carrying the teams secure in the belief that they were going to assassinate Erdoğan were beginning their descent on Marmaris
* 16 JULY 03.20 HOURS / MARMARİS
The helicopters carrying the operation team, following a flight of more than one hour, reached Marmaris. The pilots landed at the given coordinates close to the hotel where the President, whom they imagined they were going to detain, had been staying. The operation team did not know where the hotel was and one of its members asked Atilla Barbaros Teoman, whom they encountered on the road, according to the statement made by the latter, “Where are scumbag Tayyip’s villas?” and he told them the way in fear. It was 03:30 by the time the assassination team entered the hotel that they had found with a passer-by’s assistance and which the President had long since left by the time they came.
* 16 JULY 03.25 HOURS / ISTANBUL
Just as the assassination teams were seeking him out in Marmaris, Erdoğan was facing the press hordes at Atatürk Airport, where his plane had landed seven minutes earlier. Erdoğan said two important things in his speech, in which he repeatedly stated that the Gülen Brotherhood was the culprit behind the putsch. The sentence, “Today, as you know, there was unfortunately a stirring in our armed forces in the afternoon,” indicative as it was that the putsch preparations had been unearthed hours earlier, may have slipped from his lips. But this was not all that slipped from his lips, and he added, “This action is a huge gift from God to us.”
Unanswered questions: The July 15 Coup Attempt
It has still not been possible to pierce the veil of secrecy over many of the events experienced on the day of the bloody coup attempt. The truth about 15 July will only come out into the open once a full answer has been given to these questions.
Although the Gulenists had made their intentions as against the AKP and Erdoğan clear with their probes into MİT of 7 February 2012 and graft of 17/25 December 2013, it would be far more penetrating and to the point to ask why the coup attempt that led to 248 people losing their lives was not/could not be prevented.
It is everybody’s right to find out the truth, mindful of those who were killed resisting the coupists on the evening of 15 July. In this vein, let us pose a few questions about the coup attempt whose answers remain shrouded in darkness.
Why could it not be prevented in view of the tip-off that was given?
* Even though the informant Major H.A. came to MİT at 14:45 on 15 July and said that a raid would be staged on the organisation, why could the coup not be prevented?
MİT, which was incapable of unearthing intelligence about the imminent coup, learnt a few hours in advance in a tip-off made to it on the day the putsch took place that certain preparations were underway. In fact, the tip-off given by Major H.A. was about a raid that would be staged on MİT targeting Undersecretary Hakan Fidan. Undersecretary Fidan, who went to General Staff Headquarters following the tip-off, held a meeting with Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar and top-ranking commanders and saw to it that certain measures were taken. Even if these were touted to the media as being measures aimed at preventing the coup, it became apparent a few hours later on the same day that they were useless.
To be charitable to them, perhaps neither MİT nor the military officials realised that a coup was imminent. As things stand, it could be said that the measures taken at the meeting held at General Staff Headquarters were aimed at preventing the raid that would reportedly be staged on MİT, and not the coup. However, Akar said in his statement, based on the investigation made especially at the Army Aviation Academy, “In our assessment of the forthcoming information we concluded that it might be part of a bigger plan.”
Military units were not put on standby despite the risk that “It might be part of a bigger plan.” Is an explanation not warranted as to why Full General Akar, with time in hand to pass on information, failed to notify the air force and navy as well as army commanders?
Why did Hakan Fidan not deviate from his programme?
* What did Hakan Fidan do after he left the Chief of the General Staff’s office?
After Hakan Fidan left the meeting at General Staff Headquarters at 20:31, he did not deviate from his habitual programme. Fidan went off to dine with Head of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Görmez, and one of the Syrian opposition leaders, Ahmad Moaz Al-Khatib, in Ankara’s Çankaya district. Despite a tip-off having been made about a raid targeting him, how is one to explain Fidan going out to dinner?
Why were the President and Prime-Minister uninformed?
* Why did MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan not inform President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime-Minister Binali Yıldırım?
The intention to stage a raid on MİT is not a commonplace matter. Despite this being part of a larger plan, nobody appears to have been capable of grasping this. At least, this may be the impression it is wished to give. On the day and evening of the coup, Hakan Fidan passed on no information about the affair to either Prime-Minister Binali Yıldırım, to whom he reports, or President Erdoğan, who had referred to the former as “my repository of secrets.” After the coup attempt started at 21:30, both President Erdoğan and Prime-Minister Binali Yıldırım say that they were unable to get hold of MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan. It remains a matter of mystery as to why Fidan did not answer the phone or could not be contacted.
When did Erdoğan find out?
* Why has Erdoğan made five different comments as to when he learnt of the coup attempt?
The prime target of the coup attempt, President Erdoğan, has given a full five different times in comments he has made on different dates as to when he learnt of the putsch. Each comment has only served to fuel suspicion. In the comment he made at 04:22 on 16 July at Atatürk Airport having arrived from Marmaris while the putsch attempt was still underway, he said “There was unfortunately a stirring in our armed forces in the afternoon.”
The first contradictory time then emerged in a television broadcast in which he took part on the CNN International station on 18 July 2016. Erdoğan said, “I received news at about 8 o’ clock that evening and learnt that there were developments in certain regions. So, I decided to make a move.” When Erdoğan participated in an Al Jazeera television programme on 20 July 2016, this time he said that he learnt of the stirring within the TAF from his brother-in-law.
Erdoğan then went on to state something totally different in a comment he made to Reuters on 21 July 2016, indicating that his brother-in-law, who called him at about four or half past four, told him there was something stirring in the vicinity of Beylerbeyi and access to the bridge was being blocked. Finally, Erdoğan, speaking on an ATV-A News Partner programme on 30 July, said, “On that day, we heard at some time around 21:15 that something had started. At 21:30 my brother-in-law called me.” Which of these times is correct?
Why did they stand by Öztürk?
* Why did Chief of the General Staff Akar and Air Force Commander Ünal make a comment in which they stood by Akın Öztürk, who is supposedly a coup suspect?
It invited suspicion that former Air Force Commander Akın Öztürk, proclaimed as of the first day to be the coup’s number one suspect, failed to attend Combatant Air Force and Air Missile Defence Commander Mehmet Şanver’s daughter’s wedding despite being the wedding witness and was present at the Akıncı Base on the night of the coup. It has proved impossible to pin down whether Öztürk was a coupist or intermediary and, according to his own statement, he was at the Akıncı Base accommodation on the day of the coup to visit his grandson. Öztürk, who despite having been tortured gave a statement in which he rejected the accusations, described how he tried to prevent the coup attempt of which he says he became aware thanks to Air Force Commander Abidin Ünal’s phone call.
Comments that supported Öztürk’s defences were included in a statement emanating from the General Staff on 21 July concerning the coup attempt. It was said in the Chief of the General Staff’s statement, “Air Force Command called Full General Öztürk, who was in the accommodation area at Akıncı Base in Ankara, and informed him that the flights taking off from Akıncı were illegal and requested that he speedily go to Akıncı and try to prevail on those staging the putsch there.” However, this is not included in Hulusi Akar’s statements.
Moreover, Mehmet Dişli has also said that he called Öztürk at the behest of Akar, whom he accompanied to Akıncı, and, in response, Öztürk came to the base in civilian attire. This assertion of Dişli’s has been confirmed by Akar. Why did the General Staff stand by Akın Öztürk, who is believed to have been a coupist by the prosecution and government? If Akın Öztürk is, as he claims, innocent, why is he on remand?
Were the Gulenists on their own?
* Did only military staff who are purportedly members of the Gülen Brotherhood take part in the 15 July coup attempt?
It has become apparent that political unity does not reign in the TAF and that the Gülen Brotherhood, despite having considerable clout, lacks the strength to pull off a coup on its own. The thousands of people who have until now been arrested/remanded in custody in connection with the coup attempt stand accused of FETÖ membership. The existence of people who have no Gulenist connections among those remanded and in coup plan documents and duty lists cited as grounds for remand is evidence that Fethullah’s followers were not on their own in the coup attempt. Put forward as the main reason for the failure of the coup is the thesis that a putative coup alliance crumbled. The series of comments emanating from inside the TAF that this was a “putsch that was not within the chain of command” support the suspicion that there was an alliance which crumbled. In fact, certain of the top brass who issued such comments, some of whom are not Gulenists, have been remanded on suspicion of coup involvement. All of this adds weight to the theses both that the Gulenists were not on their own in attempting the coup, and also that there existed an alliance of putschists.
What was the political orientation of the military personnel who were not Gulenists and what were their motives for participating in this putsch, and who were the civilian accessories that gave them support? More importantly, if it existed, why and how did the alliance of coupists crumble? Could negotiations of one kind or another conducted after the government learnt of the coup attempt during the daytime have led to the alliance crumbling?
Why was Hulusi Akar spoken of as being ‘in the midst’?
* What did it mean when Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar was referred to as being ‘in the midst’?
Hulusi Akar’s chief aide-de-camp Levent Türkkan has described in his statement that Major General Mehmet Dişli said to them, having emerged from Hulusi Akar’s room which he had entered for the purpose of winning him over to the coup, “He’s in the midst. Go in.” Does the statement, “He’s in the midst” with reference to Akar, who asserts that he was asked to obtain the signatures on the coup declaration but refused, not strengthen claims of this being a coup attempt that was abandoned while being within the chain of command? Which of these is true?
Why were Akar and Dişli in the same helicopter?
* Why did Mehmet Dişli, alleged to have been one of the junta, accompany Akar in the same helicopter?
It has been ascertained that Akar, who describes how he was released in a raid, went of his own accord to the Çankaya Mansion, having been provided with a helicopter that was located at Akıncı by the coupists, realising that they had failed. The strange thing is that Mehmet Dişli, alleged to have been one of the junta, stepped out of the helicopter along with Akar. Akar has indicated that Dişli boarded the helicopter “so that it would not be fired on.” According to the statement, while Dişli was in the helicopter, he also searched certain parts of it. What and who inspired the confidence in Dişli, who had tried to persuade Akar to join the coup, to get on that helicopter?
What went on at the General Staff Headquarters?
* Why has camera footage recorded at the General Staff on the night of 15 July not been released in full?
The sole indication until now as to what went on at the General Staff is provided by the statements of the suspects and certain commanders who were taken hostage. Additionally, segments of security camera footage that support the statements have been assembled in video and photograph form and made public. In other words, rather than serving to shed light on the events in full, images have been selected that support the impression it is wished to give and these have been disclosed. With it obvious that releasing the camera footage in full would dispel question marks, this is not done. Likewise, the raw records from the security cameras at Akıncı Base have not been released. Why?
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