How did Major General Dişli get arrested at the Prime Ministry?
The indictment on the legal case about the Chief of General Staff’s central command offers interesting information on what one of the most critical actors of the July 15 coup attempt, Major General Mehmet Dişli was doing in the Çankaya Palace after landing there on the morning of July 16, 2016 with the Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar.
The indictment’s 839-843 pages include the information as to with whom the head of the Strategic Transformation Department of the General Staff Mehmet Dişli spoke with on the day of the coup attempt and afterwards on his mobile phone number 0530 662 0390 that was assigned to him.
But before going on to this information, I want to underline other information I find to be very striking. In this phone line belonging to Dişli, there are no communication records from 7:55 p.m. on July 7, 2016 to 3:25 p.m. on July 11 and also from 8:08 p.m. on July 11 to 8:35 p.m. on the night of July 15, 2016. We understand from this that Major Gen. Dişli has turned off his mobile phone during the preparation period prior to the coup in a way not to leave any trail. Then, when did Dişli turn on his phone and whom did he call first? On July 15 at 8:35 p.m., he called Col. Orhan Yıkılkan, the chief adviser to the Chief of General Staff, one of the putschists at the General Staff Headquarters. As the video recordings show Dişli’s white-colored vehicle entered the General Staff premises at 8:45 p.m., the major general must have called Col. Yıkılkan when he was about to leave his residence on Paris Street in Ankara’s Kavaklıdere neighborhood.
Afterwards at around 9:00 p.m., it is none other than Major Gen. Dişli who entered the Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar’s room and said according to Akar’s testimony, “My commander, the operation is about to start, we are going to apprehend everyone, battalions, brigades have set on the roads, you will see shortly” and tried to persuade Akar into taking the helm of the coup. Dişli is also the person who took Hulusi Akar at 11:04 p.m. with a helicopter to the Akınca air base, which was used as the center of the coup attempt. Moreover, he did not leave the side of Akar for about 10 hours at the base until 9:00 a.m. the next day when they left for Çankaya Palace together and were involved in the putschists attempts to persuade Akar.
The whole point is that this major general, who played such a critical role on the night of the July 15 coup attempt, went out of the helicopter, which landed on Çankaya Palace’s garden, together with Hulusi Akar after the coup failed and spent an important part of the day there at the prime ministerial compound. On his second testimony to the prosecutor’s office on Dec. 26, 2016, Dişli said he “had performed a duty at the crisis desk of the prime ministry,” but in his first testimony to the prosecutor’s office on July 18, given right after the coup attempt, Dişli does not have such a statement.
Let’s return to the phone records in the indictment. The records show that Dişli had really spent a great deal of time on the phone. During the time period between 8:35 p.m. on July 15 when he called Yıkılkan and 3:38 p.m. on the next day when he called Air Force Commander Akın Öztürk while in Çankaya Palace, Dişli conducted phone conversations with a total of 23 different numbers, once or more than once with some. According to my calculations, after getting to Çankaya Palace at 9:30 a.m., he has conducted at least 50 phone conversations. Among these conversations, Dişli’s intense communication with Air Force Commander Akın Öztürk draws attention. The two spoke with each other eight times and an additional 15 times over the phone line of the four-star general’s noncommissioned officer İsmail Keskin. Mehmet Dişli also held 12 phone conversations with the first main jet base command in Eskişehir. Most of these conversations took place after 11:00 a.m. on July 16.
The issue that is confusing in the public eye is Major Gen. Dişli’s freedom of movement in the Çankaya Palace. In his first testimony to the prosecutor’s office, Dişli said he entered the Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş’s room first when he went into the palace.
“The chief of staff first came directly to my room in the morning. Mehmet Dişli was behind him. I got suspicious when I saw him [Dişli] at first. He attempted to come into my room a couple of times, but I did not let him in,” Türkeş stated to the Türkiye newspaper on July 3, 2016.
Dişli’s bizarre status at Çankaya Palace has been a topic of mystery at the Turkish Parliament Commission set to probe the coup attempt.
“I was with the Chief of Staff from the beginning. I am not a party to this, but a victim. We have handled the crisis together from the beginning. We have lastly gone to the Çankaya [Palace] with the instruction of our Prime Minister. There too, we administered the closing of the crisis,” read Dişli’s statement that the commission informed Hulusi Akar.
“The putschist Gen. Mehmet Dişli claims that he was summoned by the Prime Minister. The pilot of the helicopter that carried you has been also arrested. Can you clarify these issues?,” was the following question the commission addressed to Akar.
The Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar gave a long answer to the parliament. Akar first said he went to the helicopter pad of the Akıncı air base to go to the Çankaya Palace after the coup failed.
“The helicopters taking off from the base might be fired on, it should be informed that the Chief of Staff is inside [the helicopter],” Akar was told at the moment.
“As I was getting into the helicopter, although I told Mehmet Dişli ‘You stay,’ he mentioned this issue [that the information needs to be passed on that the helicopter is carrying the General Chief of Staff] and told me, ‘I will make contacts on the phone.’ As the helicopter was moving, he passed this information on to some places and when the helicopter was in the air, he was in contact with some places. After the helicopter landed at the Prime Ministry at the Çankaya Palace, I was met by Fuat Oktay, the Prime Ministry’s Undersecretary. We entered the Prime Ministry building. When we were in private with Oktay, he asked me who was coming behind me and I told him that it was Mehmet Dişli and summarizing what I have been through shortly, I assessed it would be appropriate that he [Dişli] should also be detained. Anyway, I later found out that a detention was taken out subsequently,” said Akar.
In Akar’s answer, there is no clarity as to what Dişli did at the Çankaya Palace where he spent more than six hours.
“All, including our Prime Minister, have witnessed this,” said Dişli to the prosecutor’s office in his testimony, telling them that he worked at the crisis desk.
According to Dişli’s testimony to the prosecutor’s office, as he was at the Prime Ministry floor at about 3:30 p.m., two police officers came near him, indicated that Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s executive assistant Murat Aydın made a complaint about him regarding the incident of Akar being handcuffed and told Dişli that he was required to sign an official report regarding this issue. Dişli refused to sign the report.
“I did not sign the report. They said, ‘It is up to you.’ Then while leaving, they handed me over to the civilian police officers waiting next to the palace,” said Dişli about the following incidents.
It is clear we will continue to discuss Mehmet Dişli in the upcoming periods as well.