It was the second time in my life I saw his face. The first time was one year and one day ago, on the night of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, when he was heading a military team that raided the headquarters of Hürriyet and CNN Türk, as part of a raid on Doğan Media Center, in Istanbul at about 03:00 a.m. on July 16. The second time was yesterday on July 17 at the 27th Criminal Court in Istanbul.
Army Captain Süleyman Ahmet Kaya was being accused of restricting freedoms by capturing the employees of Hürriyet, threatening them more than once with guns and being a part of a military coup attempt aiming to overthrow the government, which meant three times life sentences as for the two other army captains. For the other 14 soldiers, life sentences from 15 years were sought. In addition, Kaya was also accused of killing a civilian protester right outside the Doğan Media Center premises’ fences as a result of an armed clash he and his soldiers were engaged in against police forces that surrounded our building.
That night, as the most senior editor in the building, I had to deal with him and the team he was commanding, together with other editors and reporters. At the CNN Türk building it was Erdoğan Aktaş, and at the Kanal D studios it was Süleyman Sarılar who were doing the same thing.
The first thing I focused on was to convince him to tell his soldiers to put down their G-3 automatic rifles and stop pointing them at our faces, since there was no one with arms in our newspaper’s offices and an unwanted accident had to be avoided. The privates in the team seemed to be unaware of anything, and actually they were the ones who were trembling with agitation. A trembling finger could have caused a disaster. It was possible to convince him after a few sentences, and he asked the soldiers to be on alert but point their guns downward.
He was there to seize the building and stop the broadcast. It was obvious that the move was not planned beforehand. After President Tayyip Erdoğan had addressed the people through a live broadcast on CNN Türk, they received their orders, seized a helicopter and raided our campus, perhaps in order to avoid further broadcasts through TV or websites against the coup attempt.
I tried to tell him several times that the orders he received were fake ones, the coup attempt was failed, and the president, prime minister and a number of generals have already addressed the people who were already on the streets, and he should stop it and not destroy his career and himself. He was fixated on his job. They made us evacuate the building at gunpoint. The captain was the last one to surrender to the police after engaging in a clash with them inside the building.
Yesterday, as I was sitting on the “complainant chairs,” together with my TV colleagues, he turned to his right and came face-to-face with me, smiled in a shy manner and greeted me with a nod. I nodded at him back without a smile.
Then I thought about this young man, his destroyed life, his family and what kind of a hell he threw himself into. The relatives of the killed civilian protester of the coup, Vedat Barceğci, were also present in the courtroom seeking justice for their lost one, together with the relatives of the soldiers on trial.
It is hard to believe that not only those young officers but also army generals and navy admirals were receiving orders from political commissioners, mostly theology scholars who are called the “imams” of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the coup, but that is what we are facing nowadays.
Turkey is passing through a dire strait indeed.