Turkish police officer who saved Erdoğan on night of coup arrested over Gülen links

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Photo: Hürriyet

A police officer who was one of three crewmembers of a helicopter that carried Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family from a hotel to the airport during a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was arrested over alleged links to the Gülen movement, which Erdoğan and his government accuse of masterminding the abortive coup, the Hürriyet daily reported on Friday.

Doğan’s helicopter took Erdoğan from the seaside town of Marmaris, where he was allegedly being hunted by putschist soldiers, to nearby Dalaman Airport, where his private plane was waiting.

Tayyib Sina Doğan was fired from the police department on Nov. 22, 2016 over accusations that he had downloaded the ByLock mobile phone messaging app and was sent to Sincan Prison in Ankara on the same allegations on Nov. 20, 2017.

“If I were a member of a terrorist organization, I would not have allowed the helicopter the president boarded to take off,” he told Hürriyet. “I had the helicopter key. I knew the equipment. I was the first person to see the coup plotters’ helicopter before we took off, and I informed the pilot.”

“I did not download the app,” he said. “I think other programs might have sent me [to the IP address associated with the app].”

Turkish authorities claim ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Barış Yurtseven, the pilot of the plane that brought President Erdoğan from Dalaman to İstanbul on the night of the failed military coup attempt last July, was also fired from Turkish Airlines (THY) in February over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Nineteen police officers who were responsible for Erdoğan’s security were dismissed over alleged Gülen links following the failed coup attempt.

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 Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

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.

Amid an ongoing witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 16 said 48,739 people had been jailed and eight holdings and 1,020 companies seized as part of operations against the 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, 2016 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency.

Contrary to accusations made by President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded last month 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.

(Turkish Minute with Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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