Former comrades in Turkish army accuse each other of delivering false statements
Çınar Oskay / Uğur Ergan ISTANBUL / ANKARA
Former Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman.A witness and a suspect in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case, both top commanders of the time, have engaged in a bitter verbal exchange, as the controversial case continues its retrial.
“The reactions are very unfair. We had great grievances,” former Land Forces Commander Gen. Aytaç Yalman said in an interview with Hürriyet published on Dec. 14, after being reminded that some of his comrades tried in the Balyoz case accused him of not protecting them.
Yalman said retired Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ and Çetin Doğan, the former 1st Army commander – both working under his rank at the time – had not informed him of a seminar held by the 1st Army Commandership that allegedly featured the coup plot.
“That is to say, the seminar was held in violation of my orders. I learned about it later,” Yalman said.
“I’m currently not even speaking with anyone. Doğan is our chief enemy, I don’t have any contact with him,” he added, when asked whether he had any contact with his former comrades.
Doğan, also speaking with Hürriyet, expressed his anger at Yalman's remarks.
“He says ‘Çetin Doğan is my chief enemy.’ This is a disgusting discourse; it doesn’t befit a person who served as commander,” Doğan said.
Yalman also told Hürriyet that retired chief of Turkish General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök warned Doğan of his intention to stage a plot against the government at the time.
“How is he [Yalman] making this up? Although we don’t hold the same opinions, Hilmi Pasha is an honest and decent man. During his talk with me, Hilmi Pasha told me that he had some ‘hearsay information suggesting that some retired generals and civilians want to do something.’ I – in the clearest way possible – told him: ‘Have no doubt, we are on legitimate ground,” Doğan said.
Last month, both Özkök and Yalman testified at a hearing of the ongoing retrial of the Balyoz coup plot case.
Confirming that he had asked convicted suspect Doğan about “indirect information” regarding a possible plot, Özkök said anonymous letters had been received from outside the army.
The retrial of the case follows a Constitutional Court decision that ruled 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 Constitutional 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.