Turkish colonel accusing Gülen of coup plotting says his testimony taken under torture

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Lt. Col. Levent Türkkan, aide to Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, is seen after his interrogation.

A Turkish colonel whose testimony was key to supporting the Turkish government’s argument that a failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was orchestrated by followers of the faith-based Gülen movement in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has said he spoke under torture and his testimony was false.

“I didn’t make a truthful statement [in that testimony]. I was totally destroyed. I was receiving IV fluids. They X-rayed my brain. I didn’t make a single truthful statement,” Col. Levent Türkkan said during a court hearing on Tuesday.

Türkkan, aide-de-camp of Chief of General Staff Gen.Hulusi Akar, is among 221 suspects accused of being among the ringleaders of the failed coup attempt on July 15 whose trial began at an Ankara court on Monday.

There are over two dozen former Turkish generals among the 221 on trial.

During Tuesday’s hearing at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court, Türkkan delivered his defense in which he acknowledged that his first testimony in which he accused Gülen followers of masterminding the coup attempt was delivered under torture.

Several days after the military coup attempt last summer, the state-run Anadolu news agency published Türkkan’s confession, considered to be the highest-level “evidence” that Gülen followers were behind the coup because he said he was a Gülen follower and that he was in contact with Gülen followers during the planning and the execution stages of the coup attempt. According to Türkkan’s initial testimony, he knew about the coup plot a day before, on July 14.

Türkkan’s testimony was published by most Turkish media outlets back then along with a photo of him in which he was seen as having been tortured.

In the photo released by Anadolu, Türkkan was seen with bruises and injuries on his face, stomach, shoulder and hands. In his first testimony, Türkkan said that he asked for a pen and a paper and wrote the testimony while he was waiting in the police station; however, the nature of his injuries would apparently not allow him to use a pen.

Türkkan’s revelation that he was tortured and that his testimony was false dealt a blow to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s narrative that Gülen followers staged the coup.

The coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (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.

According to a statement from Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on May 6, 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.

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