Key coup suspect denies meeting Gülen and involvement in putsch

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Defendants Kemal Batmaz (first row C) and Akin Ozturk (second row C) and other defendants arrive for their trial accompanied with gendarmerie commandos of Sincan Penal Institution at Ankara 4th Heavy Penal Court in Ankara, Turkey on August 01, 2017. Mustafa Kamaci / Anadolu Agency

Kemal Batmaz, one of the key suspects in a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, has denied meeting with US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and organizing the putsch, on the second day of the coup trial on Wednesday.

According to the Hürriyet daily, Batmaz denied allegations of traveling to the US to meet with Gülen, who is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding the coup, together with prime coup suspect Adil Öksüz, who has been at large since being released by a court in Sincan. Batmaz said security camera footage of him was coincidental and that he was traveling on business.

“The fact that I did not give any orders or instructions, that I was abroad during the alleged meetings in Ankara, proves that I am neither the planner nor the organizer of the meetings. I have never been part of this initiative. I am not accepting these accusations,” said Batmaz.

A total of 486 people accused of taking part in the coup attempt are standing trial. The suspects, who were thought to have received orders from Akıncı Airbase, were allegedly plotting to assassinate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the night of the coup attempt.

According to the Turkish government, Akıncı Airbase, northwest of Ankara, served as the headquarters for plotters, and the orders to bomb Parliament and overthrow Erdoğan were sent out from there.

Fethullah Gülen in an interview with France 24 said that Öksüz, who is accused by the Turkish government of being the key figure in the putsch, had links to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) since he was released after being detained near the airbase in Ankara during the coup.

One of the main pieces of evidence cited by the Turkish government for Gülen’s alleged involvement in the coup is Öksüz, who is accused of being the head of the Gülen movement’s alleged network within the Turkish Air Forces. He was briefly detained after the coup attempt and is still at large.

On April 5, main opposition Republican People’s Party (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, asking many questions about Öksüz: “Which state institution imported Öksüz’s GPS device? The Prime Ministry will order it, and it will be investigated. He had two mobiles and one GPS device. Why was he not handcuffed like everyone else was? In 2014, a change was made to the MİT law. It said that no MİT personnel could be detained or arrested without the order of the prime minister. Why wasn’t Adil Öksüz arrested or detained?”

On April 25, CHP deputy Eren Erdem claimed that Adil Öksüz and Defense Minister Fikri Işık met a day ahead of the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.

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 MİT knows who has the video.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 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.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15.

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