One of the soldiers who held Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar hostage on July 15 during the bloody uprising told the military head to call Fethullah Gülen, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
In an interview with France 24 on July 23, Erdoğan said captured coup soldiers were now revealing the source of their instructions.
“One of those who took our chief of staff hostage even went further. He said, ‘Let’s put you in touch with our opinion leader Fethullah Gülen,’” Erdoğan said.
On July 16, riot police guarded the General Staff headquarters in Ankara, a location which was one of the focal points of the July 15 coup attempt.
Senior officers who refused to participate were taken hostage, including Akar.
Turkey’s government has repeatedly said the deadly coup attempt on July 15, which martyred at least 246 people and injured more than 2,100 others, was organized by followers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Gülen, a former ally turned foe of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Gülen is also accused of a long-running campaign to take over the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the “parallel structure.”
On capital punishment
Erdoğan was also asked about calls for the restoration of capital punishment for coup plotters in Turkey.
During pro-government rallies in Turkey since the attempted coup, calls for the death sentence for coup plotters could be heard from the crowd. The European Union earlier this week called for an “unequivocal rejection of the death penalty.”
“The demands of the people cannot be overlooked in democracies. It is your right. This right shall be examined within the constitutional framework by the concerned authorities,” Erdoğan said in an Istanbul speech on July 17.
During the France 24 interview, he struck a more positive note on the reintroduction of capital punishment.
“In democracies, sovereignty rests unconditionally with the nation … Is there capital punishment in the U.S.? There is. In Russia? There is. China? There is. Capital punishment exists in a large majority of the world,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also added that Turkey had been “kept waiting at the door of the EU for 53 years,” asking whether those countries that have already become EU members were more eligible than Turkey.
“We are a more advanced country than any of them, from fundamental rights and freedoms to economic opportunities,” he said.
Turkey has been a candidate country for EU membership since 2005.
Chapter 33 of Turkey’s European Union accession process, which covers economic and financial provisions, was opened last month.
The Turkish president also responded to a question on purported ill-treatment of some captured soldiers during the coup attempt, featured in photographs published in the media.
“There was a brawl. During this fight, soldiers and police officers confronted each other,” he said.
“Our chief-of-staff has a serious laceration in his hand and neck [sustained] while he was handcuffed,” Erdoğan added, noting that the most important issue was to talk about the 246 people killed in the coup attempt and 2,185 injured. “That is the real ferocity,” he said.