[OPINION] Erdoğan tries hard to suppress coup probe

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (C) poses with head of Turkey's intelligence service Hakan Fidan (R) and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who he accused of failing to inform him about a coup attempt on July 15 despite the fact that they had learned of the coup plan six hours earlier, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Nov. 18.
Abdullah Bozkurt
Abdullah Bozkurt

by Abdullah Bozkurt

With a bloody abortive coup attempt that was most likely orchestrated as a false flag, Turkey’s autocratic leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the modern day version of Emperor Nero, who deliberately torched Rome in A.D. 64 in order to launch the persecution of Christians, set up his opponents and critics for a massive crackdown.

Although the Hizmet movement, a civic group inspired by the teachings of Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen, has borne the brunt of this persecution, other opposition groups such as the Kurdish political movement, Alevi communities and secularists are not spared from the wrath of Erdoğan, who has relentlessly pursued an unprecedented assault on rights, freedoms and liberties in a NATO member country. My sources in the judiciary tell me that  most of the testimony and confessions attributed to the alleged coup suspects were prepared in advance and signed under severe torture and beatings. This information is consistent with photo and video footage shared by the state-run Anadolu news agency in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

In fact, Anadolu even ran a story claiming that former air force general Akın Öztürk, described by government media as the number one planner of the coup, confessed his involvement in the coup and blamed Gülen. When the original testimony taken by the prosecutor (most torture cases occur under police custody rather than in the prosecutor’s office) was leaked to the media, his statement was the opposite of what the state news agency had reported. Öztürk, a secularist and nationalist general who has never hidden his dislike of Gülen, denied any involvement with the coup, identified key culprits and even said Gülen could not order this putschist attempt as he has no such leverage over the military.

Later, a few more statements emerged showing further inconsistencies and contradictions in the government’s official storyline on how the coup happened and who orchestrated it. Panicked over the leaks that will likely destroy his house of cards built on lies, Erdoğan ordered a gag order on the media prohibiting them from reporting anything related to the coup investigation. His loyalist prosecutor working in the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office submitted a motion to the investigating judge, Alev Özcan, on Aug. 14, 2016, asking for a blanket ban on “all sorts of news and interviews” that are related to the investigation into the coup. The motion, approved on the same day by Judge Özcan in decision No.2016/2704, prohibited publication in print, broadcast or online. Özcan is the judge at the 7th Criminal Court of Peace, investigative judgeships that were created in 2014 by Erdoğan to persecute his critics and opponents.

Perhaps Erdoğan thought one gag order was not enough to control the narrative and went on to obtain several others that banned all media outlets from reporting about investigations into the Gülen network in Turkey. He has already scapegoated Gülen for all his troubles, from corruption probes that incriminated him and his family members to the abortive coup that his loyalists staged to railroad the opposition. Even though he maintained his grip on most media, Erdoğan was not sure about online outlets that are willing to expose the truth when they get leaks that show holes in the official narrative. For that, a judge at the İzmir 2nd Criminal Court of Peace on Sept. 16, 2016 issued a sweeping ban on the media prohibiting any reporting about the probe into Gülen with decision No. 2016/34441. That was followed by a judge at Ankara’s Gölbaşı Criminal Court of Peace who issued another gag order, No.2016/1231, on Oct. 22, 2016 banning all publications about the probe into Gülen.

 Erdoğan was struggling to make people believe a false claim that 110,000 public employees who were purged and some 50,000 people who were arrested had something to do with the coup. It was a mass persecution of lawyers, journalists, teachers, doctors and other professionals who have simply not supported Erdoğan’s favorite political party. He faced a predicament when the opposition parties submitted a motion in Parliament asking for the establishment of a commission to investigate the botched coup. His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reluctantly agreed to forming one but did not appoint members to the commission until the last minute, when Parliament was about to go to summer recess. When the AKP finally informed the Parliament Speaker’s Office, it was too late. Nevertheless, Parliament usually allows key commissions to work even during the recess, but Erdoğan’s ally Speaker İsmail Kahraman, an old dog with a strong Islamist background, did not allow the coup commission to work.

The coup commission was finally able to convene on Oct. 4 after the recess. The opposition advocated the idea that the commission must be represented equally by all four parties in Parliament as was the case with important ad hoc commissions such as the Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to draft a brand-new constitution in 2012. They also said this would send a strong message of unity against the coup plotters. Erdoğan loyalists balked at the idea, comprising the majority in the coup commission. Not only that but also all four key positions in the commission – the chair, deputy chair, rapporteur and speaker – were all selected from among AKP members. This was against the precedent under which Parliament has always balanced the composition of commissions, even permanent commissions, that look into bipartisan issues such as human rights and gender equality.

What is more, the commission delegated all its powers to its chairman, Reşat Petek, an ardent Erdoğan supporter, who decided not to invite key people with intimate knowledge of what really happened during the coup. Intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, whose job it was to alert the government about the impending coup but did not, and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who was not available for a phone conversation with Erdoğan for hours, were not invited despite the opposition parties’ demand to hear their side of the story. The commission also did not hear the alleged ringleader of the coup, Maj. Gen. Mehmet Dişli, brother of ruling party Deputy Chairman Şaban Dişli. The shocker came when Petek refused to summon pilots who allegedly bombed a Parliament annex on the night of the coup. It was clear that Erdoğan has been trying to derail the probes, cover up what and how the coup was aborted and even orchestrated.

 

In the end, most people who were invited to the commission simply parroted Erdoğan’s conspiratorial line, delivered political statements rather than a testimony that would have shed a light on the real culprits who killed civilians on July 15. They said Western powers had tried to undermine Erdoğan and decided to oust him from power because he is anti-Israel and trying to protect the nation’s interests against imperialist powers. Gülen was just a contractor in this adversarial campaign without offering any evidence to support these absurd claims. The testimonies are in parallel with what we have been hearing from Erdoğan and his associates from day one. The commission chairman is now rushing to end the deliberations and is pushing for a quick write-up of a report based on these political statements.

 

But something interesting happened in Parliament in the meantime. It was pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş who finally came out and said publicly in his party group meeting on Oct. 4 that Erdoğan knew of the coup plans days in advance and used that to consolidate his power. He said all lawmakers in Parliament knew about it and were chatting about it privately in the halls but did not have the courage to stand up and say it out loud to the public. Demirtaş’s revelations went viral, angering President Erdoğan, who gave the order to detain him and other Kurdish lawmakers on trumped-up charges. Demirtaş is still in prison today because Erdoğan wants him to be silenced in solitary confinement in a Turkish prison.

 

From the initial hours of the coup attempt, I think Gülen saw through Erdoğan’s hideous plans to pin this staged coup on him and predicted this immense effort on the part of Erdoğan to control the narrative and suppress the facts. In addition to a strong denial in the interviews Gülen gave to international media outlets, he immediately called an independent international inquiry to examine the facts and determine those guilty. He said he would agree to whatever result comes out of such a commission as long as it acts independently, and transparently. Erdoğan never responded to the offer. The president and his political associates called on the US, where the cleric lives, to hand him over, saying that there is no need for any evidence to charge and convict the Muslim intellectual. They claimed the Turkish government had handed over suspects wanted by the US without asking for any evidence in the past.

 

Before anything else that makes this abortive coup look like a staged one to benefit Erdoğan, with emergency rule that empowered him to rule the country by government decrees without an effective judicial or parliamentary review and that helped him dismiss over 100,000 employees, jail some 50,000 innocent people, close some 200 media outlets, shutter unions, universities and associations, this tremendous effort to control the information about the coup investigation alone is enough to conclude that Erdoğan is hiding what really happened on the night of July 15. He is employing all the dirty tricks in the book to prevent damaging information about the coup from coming out by securing gag orders on the coverage, tightly controlling the parliamentary probe and insuring his loyalists in the judiciary stay on top of the pre-determined conclusion.

 

Now there is a well-founded concern that Erdoğan will likely orchestrate the mass murder of generals and other officers who were jailed on coup charges but actually know what really happened and who were involved in this likely false flag operation. The suspicious deaths in Turkish prisons have already approached 30, which is more than enough to ring alarm bells. But no matter what happens, the truth has a way of coming out eventually, even if it takes some time. Erdoğan is now panicking for that eventuality.

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