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Turkish pilot in Afghanistan charged with flying jet during 2016 coup in Turkey: report

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A Turkish army pilot who was away from home on an assignment with NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan was falsely charged by Turkish authorities with participating in an aerial campaign that took place during a failed coup in Turkey in 2016, the Nordic Monitor website reported.

The official documents obtained by Nordic Monitor reveal that army officer Bayram Taşbaşı, who served as a senior advisor for the NATO mission in Afghanistan from January 15, 2016 to August 10, 2016, was accused of joining the mobilization in the air and piloting an aircraft on the night of the coup on July 15, 2016.

Taşbaşı was stationed in Afghanistan in the month of July and was ordered to report to his commanding officer back in Turkey on August 10, 2016. He took a flight next day to İstanbul, where he was detained upon arrival at the airport.

One gendarmerie officer who was also recalled while serving in Kabul did not return and travelled to a Western country to seek asylum.

According to Nordic Monitor, there was no evidence against Taşbaşı except testimony from a secret witness who turned out to be his schoolmate, Col. Mehmed Esad Özormancık, who had harbored hostility against him for years.

He spent seven months in jail before he was indicted on April 20, 2017 and managed to get a copy of the charging documents and evidence, which included only a defamatory statement from his rival in the army. The İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court ruled to release him pending trial on June 16, 2017.

But his troubles got more complicated when a separate investigation was launched into him by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office under case file No. 2017/114444. The military crimes section of the prosecutor’s office accused him of being among the pilots who flew aircraft on the night of the coup, bombing various locations and transporting putschists.

The basis for the charges was a military report drafted by the former unit Taşbaşı served in before he was deployed to Afghanistan. The report, commissioned by the Land Forces assignments department, claimed Taşbaşı flew an airplane on the night of the failed coup and destroyed and lost inventory in the course of events. The report specifically mentioned that a pilot’s helmet which was under the control of the assignments department went missing. It further stated that Taşbaşı’s involvement was determined by a judicial investigation, and as a result he was dismissed from the military and imprisoned.

He was also charged with belonging to the Gülen movement, with which he denied having any association. The prosecution also did not include any evidence suggesting he was affiliated with the movement other than a statement by a secret witness.

His case is still pending.

Turkey accuses the Gülen movement of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt, although it strongly denies any involvement.

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