Turkey’s former top general says coup rumors were 'not serious’
Retired former chief of Turkish General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök, along with former Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman, testified during the hearing at the Anatolian 4th Heavy Penalty Court in Istanbul.The retrial of the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case has begun, with retired former chief of Turkish General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök saying the coup rumors were “not serious” during his testimony on Nov. 3.
Özkök, along with former Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman, attended the hearing to testify at the Anatolian 4th Heavy Penalty Court in Istanbul.
After confirming which suspects he knew and which he did not, Özkök was asked whether he knew of action plans titled “Balyoz, Suga, Oraj, Çarşaf,” to which he responded that he heard of these plans “from the media.”
“I had never heard about these plans. Especially the word ‘Balyoz’ sounded very unfamiliar to me. I only heard it from the media. I did not receive any information that a coup was being planned. There were just rumors,” he said, adding that these rumors were not serious enough to launch an investigation at the time.
Confirming that he had asked convicted suspect Çetin Doğan, the former first army general, about “indirect information” regarding a possible plot, Özkök said anonymous letters had been received from outside the army.
He also denied that letters were exchanged between the General Staff and other forces for not recording the alleged plot, which was determined as a coup plot in the previous ruling, during a seminar in 2003.
Former Gen. Yalman also said he had no knowledge of the Balyoz coup plot at the time it is alleged to have been planned.
“I do not have any information or documents. I learned about this subject after it was reported by the media,” Yalman said.
He added that he organized the seminar held by the 1st Army Commandership which allegedly featured the coup plot, but he knew nothing about the context in which the seminar was presented as he could not attend.
Some 205 of the suspects who were released pending trial, including Former First Army General Çetin Doğan, retired Col. Dursun Çiçek, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy and retired General Engin Alan, attended the Nov. 3 hearing.
Meanwhile, the newly elected Galatasaray President Duygun Yarsuvat will not travel to Dortmund with the Galatasaray team for its midweek UEFA Champions League match, as Yarsuvat is representing one of the Balyoz suspects in the case.
The retrial follows a Constitutional Court decision ruling that the rights of a majority of the 236 convicted suspects were violated in the trial.
Military commanders had been accused of trying to destabilize then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government after the 2002 election, with plans to bomb mosques and trigger a conflict with Greece to pave the way for a military takeover.
In its June 18 ruling, the top court ruled unanimously that the convicted suspects’ rights were violated concerning “digital data and the defendants’ testimonies.” Importantly, it also ruled that the applicants’ complaints regarding a local court’s refusal of Özkök and Yalman’s demands to testify as witnesses before the court were “admissible” in consideration of their right to a fair trial.