Coup suspect colonel says he received order from general to act against a terror attack

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Col. Fırat Alakuş (L) and Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı

One of the suspects in an ongoing trial into a failed coup attempt on July 15, Col. Fırat Alakuş, has said he received an order from Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı on the night of July 15 to get ready for a terrorist attack and did not know a coup attempt was unfolding, the Doğan news agency has reported.

Alakuş is among 221 suspects accused of being 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 Thursday’s hearing at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court, Alakuş delivered his defense in which he denied taking part in the coup attempt.

“My job was to give additional support to the office of the chief of general staff as a measure against a possible terrorist attack based on intelligence. I personally got the assignment from Special Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı. I was told to learn the details of the tasking from Col. Ümit Bak,” Alakuş told the court.

“I carried out my responsibility within the chain of command to supply security to the office of the chief of general staff. I believe that me and my team were made to fall into a trap by the coup plotters,” added Alakuş.

The colonel also denied having any links with the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup attempt. The movement strongly denies the accusation.

Official statements and testimonies are contradictory concerning the role of Lt. Gen. Aksakallı, who ordered noncommissioned officer Ömer Halisdemir to kill Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi during the night of the coup.

“Semih Terzi [who was killed by Halisdemir] was invited to Ankara by Zekai Aksakallı,” said 1st Lt. Enes Yılmaz in March during a hearing at the Muğla 2nd High Criminal Court, where the team that targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hotel in Marmaris on the night of July 15 are standing trial.

“I think this was a civilian coup attempt under a military mask,” Brig. Gen. Erhan Caha, one of the 221 suspects said on Wednesday at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court, adding: “This dire and abominable coup attempt was carried out with a plan, within the knowledge and control of the chief of general staff [Gen. Hulusi Akar], the commanders of armed forces and the [National Intelligence Organization] MİT undersecretary [Hakan Fidan]. This will be seen when they come to testify, even as witnesses.”

During Tuesday’s hearing Col. Ali Yazıcı, a top military aide to President Erdoğan who was arrested in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on July 15, said Erdoğan’s advisors used to make coup-related jokes before the putsch.

Col. Levent Türkkan, whose testimony was key to supporting the Turkish government’s argument that the failed military coup attempt was orchestrated by followers of the faith-based Gülen movement in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), said he spoke under torture and that 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. Türkkan said during a court hearing on Tuesday.

As many questions still persist as to what happened before and after the coup attempt 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.

Why MİT Undersecretary Fidan informed neither President Erdoğan nor Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım during those seven hours, despite the fact that he had learned of the coup attempt at 14:30, is one of the questions being asked by many people. Fidan did not testify to a prosecutor or to the parliamentary Coup Investigation Commission.

It was also revealed in February that Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar and MİT Undersecretary Fidan had a six-hour meeting in Ankara a day before the failed coup.

The testimonies of officers who were part of a 37-strong team of Special Forces members that was sent to take President Erdoğan from his hotel in Marmaris on July 15 have presented 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. 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?’”

“It was a coup attempt designed to fail,” said main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said last month.

More than 240 people were killed, while a thousand others were injured in the coup attempt.
President Erdoğan is named as a co-plaintiff in the trial, while chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who was taken hostage by the coup plotters, is cited as a victim.

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.

“There are currently 221,607 inmates in prisons. Prison capacity is 203,000, making them 9 percent over capacity,” said Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Basri Bağcı recently informed Parliament, saying that some inmates have to sleep in shifts.

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.

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