A former combat pilot who was fired by an emergency decree for alleged links to the Gülen movement was killed in a farming accident on Saturday, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Kronos news website.
Yahya Tarih, 36, died in a tractor accident in central Turkey’s Kayseri province. He was crushed by the tractor, which he was using while working the fields. Tarih was transporting wheat at the time of the accident.
Tarih was dismissed in 2020 in the context of the so-called payphone investigations. The investigations are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone to call all his contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that the other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links.
The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Tarih was arrested shortly after his dismissal and sent to Ankara’s Sincan Prison. He was sentenced to six years, three months in prison and released pending the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision.
His friends and former colleagues said Tarih, who flew F-16s, was a successful pilot and had taken part in important overseas military operations.
Following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24, 706 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
The government has not officially announced how many pilots it has purged from the air force in the aftermath of the failed putsch, but the figures reported in the Turkish media range from 600 to 716.