Moments of truth on the night of the attempted coup
I spent the night of July 15 at daily Hürriyet’s Ankara building amid the sound of explosions. That night and day are now over, but developments are not.
The first thing I did when I heard of the military activity in Istanbul was try to check whether or not the lights of the Office of the General Staff building were on. But I could not reach the complex whatever I did. I saw the tanks and policemen trying to block the street and headed back to the newspaper offices. Planes were flying above us making enormous resonances; the sounds of bombs were hurting our ears. We went live on air with CNN Türk’s Ankara representative, Hande Fırat.
She was able to make videophone contact with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the most critical moment of the course. Erdoğan challenged the plotters, called on people to protect democracy. Upon Erdoğan’s call, people took to the streets.
Meanwhile, deputies started gathering at the parliament building to stage resistance to the coup. I was trying to reach the General Staff to determine whether the coup attempt was being carried out through a chain of command. The phones were ringing but there was no answer. As time went by, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and other force commanders were held by the plotters. It was a black day for democracy.
The talk that determined the fate of the coup occurred just before President Erdoğan departed from Marmaris in southwest Turkey. 1st Army Commander Gen. Ümit Dündar called to say, “Mr. President, you are the legitimate president. I am loyal to you. Do not go to Ankara; come to Istanbul. I will provide your security.”
Gen. Dündar asked President Erdoğan to act swiftly. Only 62 minutes after Erdoğan left, plotters raided his hotel; the fact that Erdoğan was quick to leave upset the plotters’ plans.
We woke up to a morning where history was written while the nation defended democracy. I was at the Çankaya Mansion attending the press conference of Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım together with cabinet ministers and Gen. Akar. The undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Hakan Fidan, was unshaven. He said, “We worked all night. All the systematic work is completed; now we need to make point shootings.”
It is said that Gen. Akar was informed of the coup attempt at around 5 p.m. while he was working at the headquarters. He was arrested by officers. He was moved to the Akıncılar Base at 3:05 a.m. He was freed through an operation conducted by special forces. Plotters continued holding the Land Forces commander and the second chief of general staff at the Akıncılar Base. The commander of the 141st fleet at Akıncılar base was Lt. Col. Hakan Karakuş, son-in-law of former Air Force Commander Akın Öztürk.
As the day broke, it was understood that the leader of the failed coup was Öztürk. He was shot and wounded as he was about to board a helicopter to escape. He was arrested.
The question of who planned the coup attempt is generally answered as Gen. Metin İyidil working at the EDOK, the Education and Doctrine Command. At the same time, it is said that Col. Muharrem Köse, who worked in the legal department of the Office of the Chief of General Staff until a short while ago, also played an important role in the planning of the attempt. He was removed from his position with a sudden decision recently. He was suspected because of the extraordinary activity in his email account and phone traffic. I wish these suspicions were stronger and intelligence on the coup planning would have been collected.
Another piece of information is that the coup was originally planned for May 4 but was postponed to July 15 when Köse was relocated.