Former general denies July 15 coup allegations
AA photoFormer four-star general Akın Öztürk denied any involvement in a failed July 15, 2016, coup when he appeared before a court on May 22 in a trial against more than 200 soldiers regarding events at the Turkey’s General Staff Headquarters on the night of the putsch.
“It is the biggest punishment for me to be tried for such treason. What would be a greater punishment for a soldier who spent 46 years in such a uniform? My Dear Nation, my commanding officers that have taught me, everyone should know that I neither contributed nor knew about this treacherous coup attempt,” Öztürk said in his defense.
The Ankara 17th High Criminal Court began on May 22 a high-profile case against 221 suspects, including former high-ranking generals who have been accused of perpetrating the coup attempt.
Öztürk, along with generals Mehmet Terzi and Mehmet Partigöç and 34 others, appeared in the dock for leading the “Peace in the Nation Council,” the leading body of the failed coup. Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of being the head of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), is being tried in absentia.
As the first general to read his defense, Öztürk denied taking part in the coup attempt, saying there had been a campaign of manipulation against him.
“In the press, there was news that ‘Akın Öztürk confessed’ before I had even given a statement. This is the beginning of a persuasion operation against me. Even if the anonymous witnesses’ statements which indicate that I took part in the meetings with putschists in Çukurambar, Ankara, were lies, [the press] published them as if they were true,” he said.
‘Gen Hulusi Akar was relaxed’
Öztürk also denied that he was in a group which was established to make Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar the head of the coup attempt.
“I did not take part in the group that was established to bring Akar to the leadership of the coup nor did I make any attempt to do so. He can be asked about that,” he said.
Answering a question concerning a previous statement in which he argued that Akar was at ease during the incidents at the headquarters, Öztürk said, “The Chief of General Staff was relaxed but anxious.”
Asked if Akar could have left, Öztürk said: “There were armed soldiers outside. There was no one around him but there were armed soldiers at the door.”
Öztürk also said he certainly did not remember Ömer Faruk Harmancık forcing Akar to sign a two-paged manifesto of the committee, but added: “It might have happened after I left.”
He said Akar did not appear as if he could stop the coup attempt. “He was saying that we were disgraced as the TSK [Turkish Armed Forces]. He was very upset. He did not [give orders in order to arrest the putschists].”
Presence due to call from Abidin Ünal
Öztürk also said the reason he appeared at the headquarters was a call he received from Chief of the Air Staff Gen. Abidin Ünal, who he said was his “friend of 45 years.”
“Abidin Ünal called me. He said ‘there are aircraft flying over Ankara; What’s happening? Can you brief me?’ I went to the Akıncı Base. When I arrived, Mehmet Dişli, Hakan Evrim and Ömer Faruk Harmancık were there. I approached Hulusi Akar, and asked, ‘What’s going on, my commander?’ I went to 143rd Fleet after he said ‘they did this. Go and talk to them.’ The friends at the fleet told me that they were determined to do it. I repeated this three or four times until the morning,” he said.
He then added that the putschists in the 143rd fleet were convinced after a few tours by Öztürk.
“We together decided to go to the prime minister along with the commander. We talked over the phone and Akar then changed his mind. Akar told me, ‘Akın stay here, convince them, make sure they don’t do any other foolishness. I will have you taken from there.’ Then he left with Mehmet Dişli,” he said.
President’s chief aide appears before court
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief aide Ali Yazıcı denied allegations of his involvement in the July 15 coup attempt, while stating that there were rumors a month before that there would be a coup.
“The president chose me by himself. They investigated me for three or four months. They have asked provincial organizations and intelligence offices. If I have an involvement with all these, he would not have chosen me,” Yazıcı said.
“I am being charged over attempting to assassinate the president. I did not do that when I had the opportunity to. I was with him all the time, I did not do it then, but they say I would attempt an assassination after I leave the president. This is not reasonable,” he added.
He said there were rumors about a possible coup a month before, however did not give information about the source of the rumors.
“I learned about the coup from the TV, but I can say that there were people who spoke about the coup before,” he said, while refusing to give names.
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar’s chief aide Levent Türkkan said an initial statement that he gave right after he was detained was taken under violent conditions. He said he had asked for a room where he could speak, but was questioned under dire conditions in which he was severely wounded.
“I do not have a sincere statement. Everywhere in my body was broken. I did not restore my consciousness for 10 days. They feared that I could die, so they injected me with a serum and took scans. I do not have a sincere statement. The accusations on the suspects should not be based on those statements,” Türkkan said, denying the accusations and his involvement with FETÖ.
When asked by the prosecutor on who was behind the coup attempt, he said “I have been thinking about this for 10 months. I could not reach any conclusions.”