Coup lead­ers, FETÖ-linked po­lice chief go on trial

A new week of tri­als over last year’s deadly coup at­tempt started yes­ter­day as the ring­leaders of the coup at­tempt and a for­mer po­lice chief linked to FETÖ ap­peared be­fore the court yes­ter­day

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the sol­diers he ac­com­pa­nied are ac­cused of killing four civil­ians re­sist­ing the putschists while Ay­nacı is ac­cused of co­or­di­nat­ing the takeover of his for­mer work­place. In the cap­i­tal Ankara, a new hear­ing was be­ing held in the trial of 221 de­fen­dants, in­clud­ing the ring­leaders of the coup at­tempt. The coup at­tempt was car­ried out by a group of mil­i­tary of­fi­cers who called them­selves the Peace At Home Coun­cil. Pros­e­cu­tors say they are or are linked to FETÖ mem­bers.

FETÖ, which long dis­guised it­self as a re­li­gious char­ity, is known for wide­spread in­fil­tra­tion in law en­force­ment, the mil­i­tary, ju­di­ciary and bu­reau­cracy. Hold­ing key po­si­tions in state in­sti­tu­tions, the group moved to seize power first in two se­cret coup at­tempts in 2013. When this failed and af­ter it was des­ig­nated as a ter­ror­ist group, FETÖ tried to seize power again in the sum­mer of 2016. Nev­er­the­less, un­prece­dented pub­lic re­sis­tance called for by the coun­try’s elected lead­ers helped to quell the in­sur­rec­tion.

Fe­tul­lah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the ter­ror­ist group, re­peat­edly de­nied al­le­ga­tions of his in­volve­ment in the coup at­tempt. How­ever, mul­ti­ple pieces of ev­i­dence show the group’s mem­bers were ac­tive in most stages of the coup at­tempt. Gülen is ac­cused of ap­prov­ing the coup plot mas­ter­minded by Adil Ök­süz, a se­nior mem­ber of the group who ran a se­cret net­work of FETÖ mem­bers in the mil­i­tary. Ök­süz, who was cap­tured at Akıncı Air Base at the heart of the coup at­tempt, re­mains at large af­ter a court con­tro­ver­sially or­dered his re­lease. Other civilian fig­ures like Ök­süz - who was a the­ol­ogy lec­turer by pro­fes­sion - were cap­tured at or near the same base and all were found to be linked to FETÖ.

In yes­ter­day’s hear­ing in Is­tan­bul, one of the de­fen­dants de­tailed the role of Ay­nacı dur­ing the coup at­tempt. Ay­nacı was sta­tioned at po­lice head­quar­ters in Is­tan­bul be­fore he was dis­missed about one year af­ter FETÖ’s first coup at­tempts in 2013. He later pe­ti­tioned to re­turn to his po­si­tion but was re­jected. When an anti-coup crowd of po­lice and civil­ians pulled him out of an ar­mored per­son­nel car­rier full of putschist troops, Ay­nacı was wear­ing a mil­i­tary uni­form. Ah­met Gök, a mil­i­tary school stu­dent who was in the same ve­hi­cle with Ay­nacı, claimed the for­mer po­lice chief in­structed them how to act against the civil­ians gath­ered around them dur­ing the at­tempted oc­cu­pa­tion of po­lice head­quar­ters. Gök said he and other troops were un­aware of the coup at­tempt and were sent to the po­lice head­quar­ters by their su­pe­ri­ors, who claimed they were sent to pre­vent a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

“We were sup­posed to help the po­lice against the ter­ror­ist at­tack. When we ar­rived at the po­lice head­quar­ters, Ay­nacı got into the car­rier. He was wear­ing a po­lice uni­form. I thought he was re­spon­si­ble for co­or­di­na­tion with po­lice,” Gök told the court. Ay­nacı was “al­ways on the phone,” Gök said, ad­ding that Os­man Akkaya, a lieu­tenant colonel, fired on the civil­ians gath­ered around them. Four peo­ple were killed when putschist troops fired on the crowd. “When Akkaya dis­ap­peared, Ay­nacı told us he was killed by the mob and told us to fire. We re­fused. Then, we heard the news that a coup was un­der­way. Ay­nacı told us not to be­lieve the news.

“He told us that sol­diers took over all po­lice build­ings across Tur­key and Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan left Tur­key. We did not be­lieve him and called the com­man­der of the mil­i­tary school. The com­man­der told us to sur­ren­der and we sur­ren­dered,” Gök told the court. The de­fen­dant also said Ay­nacı tried to get rid of the mil­i­tary uni­form he was wear­ing, but peo­ple pulled him out.

The in­dict­ment against Ay­nacı and oth­ers rec­om­mends three ag­gra­vated life sen­tences and up to 15 years in prison for all of the sus­pects, who stand ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to abol­ish the con­sti­tu­tional or­der, over­turn Par­lia­ment and oust the gov­ern­ment, as well as ter­ror­ist group mem­ber­ship. Some are also fac­ing ad­di­tional sen­tences of up to 990 years for mur­der, in­ten­tional in­jury and prop­erty dam­age, among other of­fenses.

In Ankara, de­fen­dants con­tin­ued their tes­ti­monies as the trial of 221 de­fen­dants, in­clud­ing for­mer gen­er­als, re­sumed yes­ter­day. In the trial, which started in May, de­fen­dants are ac­cused of com­mand­ing the coup at­tempt and tak­ing over the Of­fice of the Chief of Gen­eral Staff, which serves as the head­quar­ters of the Turk­ish Armed Forces (TSK). The sus­pects face life sen­tences if con­victed of charges in­clud­ing us­ing vi­o­lence to try­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment and Par­lia­ment and killings of civil­ians and sol­diers.

The hear­ing was be­ing held in a large court­room specif­i­cally built for coup tri­als in Ankara’s Sin­can dis­trict. Along with low-ranking mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, Akın Öztürk, the al­leged head of the mil­i­tary wing of the coup plot, is among the de­fen­dants. This for­mer air force com­man­der was cap­tured at Akıncı Air Base in the early hours of July 16, 2016. Chief of Gen­eral Staff Gen. Hu­lusi Akar and other top mil­i­tary brass were ab­ducted from the head­quar­ters and were brought to Akıncı by coup plot­ters dur­ing the coup at­tempt.

At the start of the hear­ing, the judge told lawyers that nearly 70 ter­abytes of images from se­cu­rity cam­eras at the head­quar­ters dur­ing the coup at­tempt would be given to lawyers. Se­cu­rity cam­era footage, at least those sal­vaged from de­struc­tion by coup plot­ters, had re­vealed the role of the de­fen­dants in the coup at­tempt even though some de­fen­dants went to great lengths to claim it was not them in the footage. One such footage pub­lished by me­dia out­lets a few months ago had shown a top mil­i­tary com­man­der be­ing hand­cuffed by putschists while his aide was shot dead.

A for­mer ma­jor, Ali Gül­tekin, was the first de­fen­dant to tes­tify in yes­ter­day’s hear­ing in Ankara. Gül­tekin de­nied ac­cu­sa­tions that he fired on civil­ians who en­tered the head­quar­ters to con­front putschists. He said he was right-handed and it was “clearly seen that [the per­son in the footage] was hold­ing the gun in his left hand” in a se­cu­rity cam­era footage pros­e­cu­tors pre­sented to the court. Gül­tekin claimed he thought that a ter­ror­ist at­tack was un­der­way against the head­quar­ters while he was there on July 15, 2016. He said he took shel­ter in an op- er­a­tions cen­ter in­side the head­quar­ters.

Anıl Koç, a non-com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer who was among putschist troops who raided the head­quar­ters, also de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions. Koç was ac­com­pa­ny­ing Fırat Alakuş, an of­fi­cer from the elite Spe­cial Forces who stormed into the Akar’s room and took him hostage. Koç said he was dis­patched to the head­quar­ters for a drill to pro­tect Akar. He claimed he did not know he was in­volved in a coup when he saw tanks en­ter­ing the head­quar­ters and said he “fell vic­tim to a plot.”

A court in Is­tan­bul heard sep­a­rate tes­ti­mony from two prom­i­nent busi­ness­men on trial over FETÖ’s busi­ness arm. Tex­tiles ty­coon Ömer Faruk Kavur­macı and baklava shop chain owner Faruk Güllü are among the high-pro­file fig­ures charged with mem­ber­ship in the ter­ror­ist group. Both men were de­tained fol­low­ing the coup at­tempt amid oper­a­tions against thou­sands of mem­bers of the group in Tur­key. Eighty-six de­fen­dants, all linked to the busi­ness world, face up to 22 years in prison for mem­ber­ship in the ter­ror­ist group. The trial is known as the TUSKON case, af­ter the nowde­funct busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion.

Of the 86 sus­pects, 31 are in cus­tody while three re­main fugi­tives, in­clud­ing Gülen, Rıza­nur Meral and Mustafa Muham­met Gü­nay. Meral is the for­mer chair­man of TUSKON and Gü­nay is a for­mer sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the as­so­ci­a­tion. Meral made head­lines a few years ago when he openly threat­ened the gov­ern­ment af­ter a se­ries of oper­a­tions against Gülenists.

Tes­ti­fy­ing at yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, Kavur­macı de­nied any links to FETÖ and claimed he was “not among those who ap­plauded Meral’s speech,” re­fer­ring to the TUSKON con­fer­ence where Meral made his threat­en­ing re­marks about the gov­ern­ment. Kavur­macı said he also protested Meral’s speech and dis­tanced him­self from TUSKON af­ter that in­ci­dent. Güllü said at the hear­ing that he left TUSKON in 2010, and did not aid Bank Asya, a now-de­funct lender that was as­so­ci­ated with FETÖ. Güllü claimed he also took part in civilian re­sis­tance against putschists on July 15, 2016.

Ci­ti­zens op­pos­ing the coup stop a tank driven by coup plot­ters out­side the Of­fice of the Chief of Gen­eral Staff in Ankara on July 15, 2016.

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