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Soldiers stripped and handcuffed in barn after 2016 putsch bid acquitted of coup charges

Cevheri Güven

Mutlu Gülerce, one of a group of soldiers kept handcuffed and stripped down to their underwear in a barn after an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, has announced on social media that all the soldiers held in that barn, more than 400 of them, have been acquitted of coup-related charges.

A photograph showing dozens of Turkish soldiers huddled together handcuffed and in their underwear in a horse barn became one of the most iconic symbols of the failed coup.

Ali Aktaş of Turkey’s Islamist Felicity Party (SP), who is also a lawyer, shared the photo on Twitter two days after the attempted coup, saying, “The putschist donkeys are kept in the barn.”

Gülerce, a former trainee lieutenant in training and Turkish Military Academy graduate who was detained and expelled from the service after the coup bid, announced in a tweet on Tuesday that all the soldiers kept in the barn were acquitted of coup charges.

“I was one of the soldiers in that photo. With my fellow soldiers, I was taken from the school [the gendarmerie school in Ankara] on the morning of July 16 and brought to this barn, where we faced inhuman treatment. We were then lynched [on social media] by people such as A. Aktaş. My fellow soldiers and I were acquitted today. Let that shameless slanderer know,” Gülerce said, referring to Aktaş.

Gülerce had spoken to Turkish media earlier in 2020 and revealed what happened in the barn.

According to his statements, the inhuman treatment some 400 soldiers were subjected to in the barn included insults, swearing, stripping of their clothes, deprivation of water and 36 hours without food, with the soldiers having to sit cross-legged with their hands cuffed behind their backs, facing the wall.

“It was forbidden to stand up or to talk. They constantly lined us up and counted us. There was psychological and physical pressure. They came periodically and slapped some of us. Some people reached their limit and had nervous collapses and fainted. Others passed out from hunger and thirst,” Gülerce said.

“Let alone asking how the unconscious soldiers were, they didn’t perform any first aid or provide any kind of medical care. The ones who had fainted remained there until they regained consciousness.”

“They were sending us to use the bathroom in a corner of the barn. Sometimes they took us out of the area and made us quickly urinate on the wall. They made us defecate, barefoot and handcuffed, in a few toilets in that place,” he added.

Gülerce also revealed that they were kept in their underwear for a week in a gathering area at Sincan Prison, too.

“It was freezing over there. Some of us got sick. We had a commander who had kidney disease; his situation was worse. We were very cold both in the barn and in Sincan Prison. We gathered in groups of 10 in order to protect ourselves from the cold in Sincan,” Gülerce said.

Some of the defendants in the same case reportedly received sentences for their suspected links to the Gülen movement, which is labeled as a terrorist organization by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), who also accuse Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Muslim preacher who inspired the faith-based movement, of orchestrating the failed coup.

Although Gülen and his followers deny the coup-related allegations against them, the Turkish government has removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs and imprisoned some 80,000 people over links to the movement as part of a crackdown that followed the abortive putsch.

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