Pilot Col. Murat Dağlı, who was the İzmir 3rd Army Aviation Regiment commander and the first pilot of a helicopter that allegedly carried a team of soldiers to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the night of July 15, when a coup attempt took place in Turkey, denied the accusations and said he learned from TV late that night about why he was actually sent there.
Speaking during a hearing of the trial of 47 people, 37 of whom are military officers, at the Muğla 2nd High Criminal Court, Dağlı said that he received an order from Brig. Gen. Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş to take a group of soldiers to a location in the Marmaris district of Muğla province where Erdoğan was staying at a hotel, although Dağlı claims not to have been aware of that.
“When I asked the other soldiers about the order, they said they didn’t know but that the order came from the General Staff. The Aegean Army commander called me on my mobile and asked me whether I was part of any kind of [coup] structure. I said no, but I could not figure out why he asked that. Army Aviation School Commander Brig. Gen. Ünsal Coşkun called me and said that I didn’t need to take orders from the Aegean Army commander since orders were now coming directly from the General Staff,” Dağlı said.
Underlining that Sönmezateş was very harsh when ordering him to go to Marmaris, Dağlı said he was not given any information about the details of the mission they would carry out with other soldiers until they learned in Bodrum, when they went to get fuel, that there was a coup attempt that night.
Dağlı said he might not be a suspect today if the Aegean Army commander had told him about the developments of the night of July 15. He was detained at İzmir’s Çiğli Military Command along with Sönmezateş early on July 16.
During a hearing on Feb. 20, Brig. Gen. Sönmezateş also said they had received an order from the Office of the Chief Of General Staff but were intentionally deceived and kept waiting for four hours.
“The order came from Semih Terzi [commander of special forces who was killed on the night of the attempted coup]. He said the Turkish Armed Forces had taken over control of the country. He said the order was from the Chief of General Staff’s Office. I have no links to FETÖ [a derogatory term for the Gülen movement which Turkish authorities accuse of being behind the failed coup]. We were sent into a trap. Who kept us waiting for four hours before taking off?” Sönmezateş said during his defense.
A 37-strong team of special forces members that attacked Erdoğan’s hotel on July 15 killed two policemen. Six aggravated life sentences were demanded for each of the 47 suspects.
The indictment was completed in only four months, considered unusually rapid given the average preparation time for indictments in Turkey. President Erdoğan also filed a criminal complaint against the suspects for allegedly trying to kill him in Marmaris.
Erdoğan called the botched coup a great gift of God as he immediately put the blame on the Gülen movement.
A report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Center (IntCen) revealed that although President Erdoğan and the Turkish government immediately put the blame for the July 15 failed coup on the Gülen movement, the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge, according to a report by The Times newspaper on Jan. 17.
Speaking to vocaleurope.com, a former Turkish officer who served at NATO headquarters in Brussels but was sacked and recalled to Turkey as part of an investigation into the failed coup on July 15 claims that the putsch was clumsily executed and never intended to bring down the government, but rather served as a vehicle for President Erdoğan to eliminate opponents and the ultranationalists to take a prominent role in the military and impose their “Eurasian” agenda on the country.
In the currently ongoing post-coup purge, over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of March 1, 93,248 people were being held without charge, with an additional 46,274 in pre-trial detention.
A total of 7,316 academics were dismissed, and 4,070 judges and prosecutors were purged over alleged coup involvement or terrorist links.