Coup commission head says unable to hear army chief because of wars on multiple fronts

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Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Reşat Petek, who is also the chairman of the parliamentary Coup Investigation Commission which was established to investigate a failed coup attempt on July 15, has said the commission has so far been unable to hear Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar over the coup attempt because he is busy commanding wars in multiple fronts.

Akar and all force commanders were taken hostage by coup plotters at Akıncı Air Base in Ankara on July 15. They were rescued on July 16. The Coup Investigation Commission is being criticized for not inviting Gen. Akar to testify.

“We will solve the issue about the army chief at the appropriate time. Turkey is in a war in both Iraq and Syria. The army chief is commanding those wars. Hence, we have to find a time when he is available [to testify],” said Petek in an interview published in the Haber Türk daily on Sunday.

Petek also underlined that the commission needs to obtain permission from the prime miniser in order to hear the testimony of National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan related to the coup attempt.

“Although we have been unable to invite Fidan to the commission, we have sent a written request to the MİT Undersecretariat about when and how they learned about the coup attempt and what did they do after that. We asked for detailed answers in chronological order. No answer has yet been provided. We are waiting for it now, and we will share it when we receive it,” said Petek, in response to a question asking why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım were unable to contact Fidan on the night of July 15.

Petek’s remarks attracted criticism on social media due to recent photos of Gen. Akar posing with Erdoğan and Fidan during a visit to Uzbekistan. “Gen. Akar is busy with wars but has time to visit Tashkent,” wrote some Twitter users.

Efforts by the opposition party members of the commission to invite Gen. Akar and MİT’s Fidan to testify have been prevented by the AKP members of the commission. This paved the way for more speculation and questions about what really happened on July 15.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Aykut Erdoğdu, a member of the parliamentary Coup Investigation Commission, hinted on Saturday that the failed coup on July 15 was a calculated move on the part of Erdoğan and the AKP.

Erdoğdu said in an interview with the Birgün daily in October that the AKP is trying to obscure the realities behind the failed coup attempt on July 15 since the commission is being prevented from doing its job by “hidden hands.”

“They are not clarifying that [July 15] night. MİT head Hakan Fidan’s failure to inform Erdoğan [about the coup attempt], Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar’s captivity and release, prime suspect Adil Öksüz’s release after detention and Erdoğan’s statement that he was informed [about the coup attempt] by his brother-in-law have not been clarified,” he said.

Underlining that the CHP has demanded to hear Fidan, Akar and other high-ranking army officers, Erdoğdu said they were expecting the commission to expand its investigation on the coup attempt to the these hearings; however, the CHP’s attempts have always been blocked.

“The strongest and dirtiest hidden hand [to prevent the commission from continuing its investigation] is the ‘palace’ [Erdoğan’s] hand. It seems like the July 15 coup attempt was a Middle Eastern attempt. When we look at it from this angle, we can talk about more [hidden] hands. We also suspect hidden hands in MİT, the General Staff and foreign embassies wearing local gloves,” Erdoğdu said.

The parliamentary Coup Investigation Commission on Nov. 24 declined to hear the testimony of putschist general Mehmet Dişli, the brother of a senior ruling party politician, due to the “nay” votes of the AKP commission members. Maj. Gen. Dişli, brother of AKP Deputy Chairman Şaban Dişli, was actively involved in the coup and was arrested after the attempt failed.

The members of the commission from the AKP also refused to hear the testimony of military officers who bombed the parliament building on July 15.

Not only a major but also a conscript informed MİT about coup attempt

Selçuk Özdağ, another AKP member of the commission, told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Sunday that in addition to a major who informed MİT around 15:00 p.m. on July 15 about the coup attempt, a conscript also went to MİT to inform officials about a plan which he said was aimed at detaining Fidan and launching an operation against the government.

Özdağ also said both the major and the conscript have been sent to jail for protection.
Kati Piri, Turkey rapporteur for the European Parliament, said on Nov. 22 to a group of journalists in Strasbourg that despite the passage of four months since the attempted coup in Turkey, questions still persist.

“We don’t clearly know what happened and who was really behind it. Questions about July 15 are still there despite the fact that four months have passed. Investigative journalists do not have a chance to investigate and write about what happened,” said Piri upon a question as to whether the Gülen movement was behind the coup attempt.

The AKP government, which launched a war against the Gülen movement following the eruption of a corruption scandal in late 2013 in which senior government members were implicated, carried its ongoing crackdown on the movement and its sympathizers to a new level after the failed coup attempt on July 15 that killed 240 people and injured a thousand others.

Although the movement strongly denies having any role in the corruption probe or the coup attempt, the government accuses it of having masterminded both despite the lack of any tangible evidence.

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a great gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

A report published by the German Focus magazine in August claimed that Turkish government members decided to put the blame for the coup attempt on Gülen half an hour after the uprising and agreed to begin a purge of Gülen followers the next day.

More than 120,000 people have been purged from state bodies, over 80,000 detained and some 40,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees included journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.

Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.

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