We should apologize to the people, former army chief says
Fikret Bila – ANKARAThe former army chief who was criticized for promoting the plotters of the July 15 failed coup attempt in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) during his term has said the people should receive apologies. Former Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel added that he wished for people to “forgive all of them.”
“Those in military and civilian responsibility positions should ask for forgiveness from the people. Me and the President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] did, but it’s not enough. Everyone should do the same,” Özel told daily Hürriyet on Aug. 12, as he commented on the failed takeover, believed to have been masterminded by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
“It [coup plot] tears my heart out and it will be torn out for the rest of my life. I will live like that from now on,” he also said.
Coup plotting soldiers were promoted to critical positions between 2011 and 2015 in Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meetings, prompting Özel to be criticized over “protecting FETÖ members.”
Saying that the TSK had examined its military personnel since becoming suspicious of FETÖ connections in 1984, Özel added that between 1984 and 2009 some 400 soldiers were dismissed for being Gülenists.
“Between 2011 and 2014 a total of 1,483 military personnel were dismissed over plenty of reasons. Most of them were dismissed over disciplinary crimes,” he said, adding that if there were notices given on coup plotting soldiers, they would “definitely” be investigated.
“Their files were clean, which means that they’ve covered themselves pretty well,” he said.
Özel also said that he gave importance to “conscience and law,” noting that he tried to perform his duties by taking these into account.
“I paid special attention to legality when I was in charge. I always questioned my conscience. However, if an attempt like this emerges from the TSK, we bear the responsibility for it, no matter how much we acted in accordance with the law. Honesty is very important for me and I’ve always been honest,” he also said.
During his interview, Özel also mentioned the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) and Ergenekon coup plot cases, which are widely believed to be conspiracies plotted by the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, saying he felt “deep sadness” over his friends who became victims in the cases.
“I feel very sad for my friends who became the victims of the Balyoz and Ergenekon cases. The majority of them had enough experience and quality to become commanders,” he added.
Balyoz was an alleged military coup plot targeting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which was allegedly drafted in 2003. The case’s indictment alleged that factions within the military had planned drastic actions to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power.
All 236 suspects in the Balyoz coup plot case were acquitted on March 31, 2015, after the case’s prosecutor argued that digital data in the files submitted as evidence in the case was “fake” and did not constitute evidence.
The Ergenekon case was a massive probe into hundreds of senior military personnel, journalists and politicians on charges of attempting to stage a coup against the Turkish government.