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Veteran journalist faces investigation due to claims about AKP role in 2016 failed coup

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A criminal complaint had been filed against a veteran journalist who recently returned to Turkey from abroad to run for a seat in parliament due to his remarks about a coup attempt in the country on July 15, 2016, accusing the government of having prior knowledge about it.

The criminal complaint against Cengiz Çandar, 75, was filed by the July 15 Foundation, a nongovernmental organization established in August 2016 that strongly promotes the government’s discourse about the coup attempt.

Çandar on Monday said in an interview with the T24 news website that he didn’t like discussing July 15 based on the narrative pushed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Even as the coup attempt was unfolding, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared before the cameras and accused the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding it. The movement, inspired by the views of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, strongly denies the allegation.

The journalist said it was “understandable” that there were elements of both the state and the Gülen movement involved in the events of July 15 since the movement had close ties to the government at the time.

“However, I perceive it as an operation orchestrated by the government. … I believe that Erdoğan was aware of it,” he added.

A written statement from the July 15 Foundation accused Çandar of trying to exonerate the Gülen movement while condemning him for his statements. The foundation said it would not allow anyone to write a fabricated story about the July 15 coup attempt, which they said took place before the eyes of the entire country.

Many believe the abortive putsch, which killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others, was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.

After announcing the coup had been put down the next morning, the Turkish government immediately started a wide-ranging purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other civil servants that ultimately led to the dismissal of more than 130,000 from their jobs.

“Think about it. A lot people die in İstanbul [on July 15]. … Early the [next] morning, a Saturday, hundreds of judges, prosecutors and members of the Constitutional Court are being arrested. … Clearly, there was a list. … There are many indications that this was a planned coup attempt,” Çandar said in the interview.

Çandar, who left Turkey for Sweden in May 2016 at the invitation of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS) to work as a visiting scholar, returned to the country earlier this month from the French city of Nice.

He has been nominated by the Green Left Party (YSP) from the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, where it is almost certain that he will be elected.

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