Recently revealed testimony shows major informed MİT about coup 7 hours beforehand

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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.

As many questions still persist as to what happened before and after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, Major O.K. said in his testimony that he personally went and informed the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) at 14:30, about seven hours before the coup attempt started, Cumhuriyet reported on Friday.

“At 14:30 I told two persons that ‘a helicopter will take [MİT Undersecretary] Hakan Fidan. I do not know what the other helicopters will do.’ They asked me what that could mean. I told them this could be a big activity, even a coup attempt,” O.K. said in his testimony to a prosecutor on Aug. 11, 2016.  O.K. added that MİT sent him back to his unit after placing a bugging device on him.

In his testimony the Major O.K. also said he had been linked to the Gülen movement but severed his ties to the movement in 2014. He also said he did not understand why he was given this critical duty despite the fact that there were 100 pilots in Ankara and even though he had cut relations two years earlier.

Stating that the testimony contradicted government propaganda that the major only informed MİT that Fidan would be abducted by military helicopter, Cumhuriyet noted that the testimony of O.K. was not entered into some 30 indictments that have been drafted by prosecutors on the July 15 coup attempt.

The question still persists as to why Fidan informed neither President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nor Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım during those seven hours, despite the fact that he had learned of the coup attempt at 14:30. Fidan did not testify to a prosecutor or to the parliamentary Coup Investigation Commission, noted Cumhuriyet.

The daily also stated that O.K. did not give testimony as a “suspect” but as an “informed person” and that he was given immunity from investigation. Although O.K. was first purged following the coup attempt but later returned to military service, since he was finally employed by MİT, he can no longer be questioned.

Ankara prosecutors Harun Kodalak and Necip Cem İşçimen were removed from their duties after they attempted to obtain the testimony of Fidan about the coup attempt. Fidan also did not answer questions from the Coup Investigation Commission.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar answered written questions sent to him but was not added to any investigation files after the interference of an “invisible hand,” Cumhuriyet reported. Akar did not answer questions from the Coup Investigation Commission as well.

The role of Akar and Fidan has been at the center of many questions concerning the July 15 coup attempt.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar and MİT Undersecretary Fidan had a six-hour meeting in Ankara a day before the failed coup, news website OdaTV reported in February.

According to official reports, 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 145,000 people from state institutions were purged and jailed by the government after the coup attempt.

The testimonies of officers who were part of a 37-strong team of Special Forces members that were sent to get President Erdoğan from his hotel in Marmaris on July 15 have unearthed conflicting details of the operation.

Brig. Gen. Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, the commander of the team that targeted 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.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Eren Erdem claimed last month 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.

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 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.

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.

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