Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said there is no resentment in the military over reassignments following reports in the press of the resignation of 10 generals including Special Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı, one of the key figures who foiled a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Monday.
Erdoğan’s remarks came during a press conference at Istanbul Atatürk Airport before a trip to Jordan.
“There is no concept such as resentment in the military. A soldier does his duty wherever he is assigned. His [Aksakallı’s] assignment to the special forces is over. After decisions made at the YAŞ [Supreme Military Council] meeting, he was appointed to the 2nd Army Corps. From now on, he will continue his mission in his new assignment,” said Erdoğan.
The new appointments, which were published in the Official Gazette on Saturday following a YAŞ meeting at the beginning of August, has revealed a crisis in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Lt. Gen. Aksakallı who was reported to have changed the fate of the coup attempt by ordering noncommissioned officer Ömer Halisdemir to kill Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi, requested retirement following his appointment as 2nd Corps commander.
A report by the online Duvar daily said a total of 10 generals asked to retire following the new appointments, and the chief of general staff has been trying to persuade Lt. Gen. Aksakallı to withdraw his petition for retirement.
The Sözcü daily reported on Sunday that Aksakallı had been persuaded to continue in his new post.
Aksakallı has also been at the center of criticism along with Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar for their controversial meeting with National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan a day ahead of the coup attempt.
Turgay Usanmaz, the coordinating officer for the special forces commander and one of the coup attempt suspects, said during a court hearing on June 6, that the date of a graduation ceremony that would normally have taken place at the Special Forces Command on July 15 was unexpectedly changed to July 14.
Usanmaz said following the graduation ceremony, a dinner was arranged at 8 p.m. and that Gen. Akar took Fidan and sat at another table.
“This was something that we had never seen before. I am saying this as someone who took part in previous [graduation] ceremonies. They had dinner and talked to each other alone for three-and-a-half hours. Akar left at 23:30. Then Zekai Pasha and the MİT head walked in the area where investigations are conducted for 30 to 40 minutes. This also attracted our attention. After seeing the guests off, Zekai Pasha left at 00:30,” said Usanmaz, adding that he was of the belief that Gen. Aksakallı had prior knowledge of the coup attempt.
Usanmaz also said while he was under detention, he was subjected to acts of torture and that it was Gen. Aksakallı who first began committing acts of torture on him.
Many questions about what happened on the day and night of the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey persist. It was revealed by the OdaTV news portal in March that Gen. Akar and MİT head Fidan had a six-hour meeting in Ankara a day before the coup attempt.
Another coup suspect, 1st Lt. Enes Yılmaz, said at a hearing on March 2 that Brig. Gen. Terzi, who was killed by noncommissioned officer Halisdemir, was invited to Ankara by Special Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Aksakallı.
Yılmaz said Gen. Aksakallı must be heard in court.
Col. Fırat Alakuş, another coup suspect, said in court in May that he received an order from Lt. Gen. Aksakallı on the night of July 15 to get ready for a terrorist attack and did not know a coup attempt was unfolding.
According to previous official reports, a major informed MİT about the coup plan at 14:00 and Fidan was with Akar at military headquarters until 20:30, half an hour before the failed coup attempt was launched.
Despite both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım having expressed their 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 150,000 people from state institutions were purged and jailed by the government after the coup attempt.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu calls July 15 a “controlled coup attempt.” The CHP leader said, “A coup is controlled coup when it is known beforehand, not prevented and its results made use of.”