A prosecutor in Muğla has demanded six consecutive life sentences for each of 46 suspects, including 37 members of the military, in an alleged assassination attempt targeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a Marmaris hotel where he was vacationing on the night of a botched coup in July, DHA reported on Friday.
According to the report, in his new 25-page evaluation prosecutor Ali Cenk requested the acquittal of Lt. Col. Hüseyin Yılmaz while seeking six consecutive life sentences for 46 suspects, 44 of whom are in prison.
A Muğla court accepted the indictment in the case in last November.
A 37-strong team of Special Forces members that attacked Erdoğan’s hotel on July 15 killed two policemen. But the court testimony has unearthed conflicting details of the operation.
Brig. Gen. Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, the commander of the team that targeted President Erdoğan’s hotel, said in court in February that they 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 [Brig. Gen.] Semih Terzi [who was killed by noncommissioned officer Ömer Halisdemir]. 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]. We were sent into a trap. Who kept us waiting for four hours before taking off?” Sönmezateş said during his defense at the Muğla 2nd High Criminal Court.
“While the whole world knew the president had gone to İstanbul, we were sent there, into a trap. … I am trying to find an answer to the question of ‘Who deceived us and kept us waiting for four hours?’”
Underlining that he had acted thinking it was a coup on the orders of the entire Turkish military, Sönmezateş also said the order was not to assassinate but to take President Erdoğan to Ankara.
Maj. Şükrü Seymen, who was commander of the team, also said he acted in accordance with the orders.
Last month, in his court hearing 1st Lt. Enes Yılmaz, a suspect in the failed coup, said during his defense in court that Brig. Gen. Terzi was invited to Ankara by Special Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı.
The officers and team who claimed to have delayed a helicopter takeoff for an operation against President Erdoğan were reinstated along with 412 others from various ministries and public institutions last month.
Many questions concerning to what really happened before, during and after July 15 coup attempt still persist.
Last Monday, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Eren Erdem claimed that Adil Öksüz, who is believed to have been the civilian leader of the putschists in the air forces, and Defense Minister Fikri Işık met a day ahead of the July 15 coup attempt.
Speaking to Tele 1 TV, Erdem said Öksüz and Işık met in Sakarya on July 14 and that there is video footage of the meeting. He further claimed that the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) knows who has the video.
On April 5, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım do not want the coup attempt to be investigated because they are concerned such a probe could extend to themselves.
“It was a coup attempt designed to fail,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan had a six-hour meeting in Ankara a day before the failed coup, news website OdaTV reported in February.
The role of Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar and MİT Undersecretary Fidan has been at the center of many questions concerning the July 15 coup attempt.
According to official reports, a major informed MİT about the coup plot at 14:00, and Fidan was with Akar at military headquarters until 20:30, half an hour before the coup attempt was launched.
Despite both President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Yıldırım having expressed uneasiness with Fidan and Akar for failing to inform them about the coup attempt on July 15, and the fact that they had learned of the coup plan six hours earlier notwithstanding, the two retained their posts while over 130,000 people from state institutions were purged and jailed by the government after the coup attempt.
The government also prevented the parliamentary Coup Investigation Commission, which was set up to investigate the failed coup, from questioning Akar and Fidan.
Although President Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) blamed the Gülen movement for the failed coup, an indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office says the majority of officers allegedly linked to the movement did not participate in the coup attempt, Al Jazeera Turk reported on April 14.
According to the report, only two out of 47 colonels who were identified as being Gülen movement members by a secret witness took part in the coup attempt. Similarly, only 300 out of 800 officers who were claimed to be using a smart phone application known as ByLock, which is considered by Turkish authorities to be the top communication tool among followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, participated in the failed coup.
Turkish Defense Minister Işık stated that the ruling AKP government had dismissed a total of 22,920 military personnel (6,511 officers and 16,409 cadets) after the coup attempt on July 15.
The government is at the center of criticism over dismissing 22,920 military personnel due to their ties to the Gülen movement, despite the fact that the Turkish military stated on July 27 that only 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in the failed coup.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 2 that a total of 113,260 people have been detained, 47,155 people including 10,732 police officers, 7,631 military officers, 2,575 judges and prosecutors and 208 local administrative officials were arrested as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the putsch.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a 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.
Contrary to accusations made by President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded in March that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind the failed coup in Turkey.
The UK Parliament statement came a week after Germany rejected Erdoğan and the Turkish government’s accusations against the Gülen movement about July 15.
The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July.
Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.
In addition, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge.
In February, Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.