Former army chief Özel denies ‘escape’ from coup panel

Former army chief Özel denies ‘escape’ from coup panel

Fikret Bilâ – ANKARA
Former army chief Özel denies ‘escape’ from coup panel Former Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel, who served between 2011 and 2015, has denied accusations that he had “escaped” a parliamentary commission probing the July 15 coup attempt, adding that he demanded deputies’ questions in advance so that he could provide more solid information.

“I didn’t escape anywhere. I am here. If I were going to escape, I would have done it in 2011,” said Özel, referring to the year he was appointed to the post. 

The 15-member commission invited Özel to help enlighten the July 15 attempt. Özel, however, sent a letter to the commission, saying he first wanted to receive the questions in advance before he would answer them.

Özel’s subsequent decision not to appear at the commission was harshly criticized by commission members. 

Özel said that because he did not know what he would be asked during the testimony, he would not be able to prepare himself properly to answer the questions. 

“Answering immediately at the time when the questions are asked … may lead to missing points. As I really wanted to contribute to the commission, I wanted the questions in a written form so that I could give the answers after conducting research,” said Özel, adding that his demand was in compliance with the law.

“If they want my contribution, they can send their questions and I will provide full answers. This would be a more appropriate and efficient way,” said Özel. 

Özel also emphasized that “if I were to escape, I would have done it in 2011. I am a person who has taken a burden on his shoulders. I did not act like those left at that time. I undertook my duty,” said Özel. 

In 2011, immediately before the 2011 Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) convention, Özel’s predecessor, Gen. Işık Koşaner resigned alongside the air, land and navy force commanders. 

At an earlier appearance at the coup commission’s hearing, Koşaner said the reason behind his resignation was to avoid pressure from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to make him appoint and retire army officers who were, at the time, suspected of planning to overthrow the government.