30 civilians among directors of coup attempt at key air base: Indictment
Mesut Hasan Benli – ANKARAThirty civilians were among the directors of the failed July 2016 coup at the Akıncı Air Base, which was used as the headquarters of the coup plotters, according to an indictment prepared regarding the coup activities at the base.
The 4,658-page indictment against a total of 481 suspects said the thwarted coup, which is widely believed to have been masterminded by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, was directed from the air base’s 143rd Fleet’s cafeteria.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and force commanders were taken to the base and held captive by pro-coup soldiers on the night of the putsch. However, they were all later freed in a special forces operation in the early hours of July 16, 2016. The base’s runways were also bombed to prevent F-16s used by the coup plotters from taking off.
According to the indictment, Hakan Evrim, who was the base commander and is among the suspects, said in additional testimony that there were 30 civilians in the cafeteria with computers and tablets. It was determined that the coup-plotting soldiers and civilians held a meeting at the cafeteria and gave orders to soldiers who participated in the attempted putsch around Turkey from the site.
Moreover, it also emerged that seven cameras in the cafeteria were deactivated a month before the foiled coup, when preparations for the uprising allegedly began.
According to the indictment, intelligence noncommissioned officer Rüştü Emre Sabancı, who is also among the suspects, deactivated the cameras on June 19, 2016, in order to take precautions against possible evidence.
One of the suspects, Maj. Ali Karabulut, said a fellow major, Mustafa Azimetli, asked for the computer systems in the fleet to be brought to the cafeteria area.
“I think that the coup was directed from the 143rd Fleet and especially its cafeteria area,” Karabulut said.
Evrim, meanwhile, said he saw Adil Öksüz, the “Air Force imam” of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), inside the cafeteria.
“For the first time, I saw Öksüz in the cafeteria area. He was talking to people with him. The place didn’t look like a regular operation center of the TSK [Turkish Armed Forces],” he said.
The indictment said military suspects Evrim, Akın Öztürk, Kubilay Selçuk, Ünal Coşkun, Ömer Faruk Harmancık, Ahmet Çetin and Mehmet Fatih Çavur, as well as civilian suspects Öksüz, Kemal Batmaz, Hakan Çiçek, Nurettin Oruç and Harun Biniş, gathered in the fleet and decided on which spots to hit with helicopters and warplanes.
The decisions were then conveyed to Staff Col. Ahmet Özçetin and Çavur, after which they sent information to Ahmet Tosun and Mustafa Mete Kaygusuz in the 141st Fleet via phone and walkie-talkies. Tosun and Kaygusuz informed the coup-plotting pilots of the coordinates of the places to bomb and gave the orders to shoot.
Moreover, the indictment said Maj. Gen. Mehmet Dişli, one of the key figures in the coup plot, entered the area of the cafeteria where Öksüz was located.
When asked about what he was doing in the corridor, Dişli said he arrived in the cafeteria to stop the coup upon Akar’s orders.
“I arrived in the area upon Akar’s order to carry out talks to stop the coup. When I entered the cafeteria, there were eight to 10 people in military uniforms,” Dişli said in his testimony.
Another suspect, Recep Ulu, said he saw a civilian wearing glasses looking at a massive map in the cafeteria while talking on the phone.
“How many buildings are there in Ankara of which the glass will be broken?” the unidentified person asked on the phone.
Meanwhile, Özçetin, who invited Çiçek to the air base, said Dişli was in the base at around 4 p.m. on July 15, 2016.
According to Hasan Hüsnü Balkıç, a pilot who bombed the parliament, Özçetin gave the pilots a target list.
“I think that Özçetin and the pilots who were on duty at the Akıncı Air Base are FETÖ members. The main FETÖ member of the Akıncı Air Base is Staff Col. Ahmet Özçetin. I think that Özçetin planned the act by taking Evrim under his influence with the FETÖ member pilots,” Balkılıç said in his testimony.
Another F-16 jet pilot who is among the suspects, Yücel Canbolat, said he believed that Özçetin was the leader of Gülenists atn the Akıncı Air Base.
The indictment consisting of 570 files named Gülen as the prime suspect and Öksüz and Batmaz as the second and third suspects, respectively.
The prosecutor has sought a total of 303 aggravated life sentences for 45 figures that were listed as leaders of FETÖ, including Öksüz.