Judge who released key coup figure Öksüz confesses to Gülen links

Judge who released key coup figure Öksüz confesses to Gülen links

Judge who released key coup figure Öksüz confesses to Gülen links A former Ankara judge who controversially ordered the release of Adil Öksüz, one of the prime suspects in the July 2016 coup attempt, has confessed to being a follower of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to a news report in daily Habertürk on May 25. 

“As he was [judicially] banned from traveling abroad, I didn’t see a need to have Öksüz arrested,” Çetin Sönmez is quoted as saying in his testimony to the prosecutor on May 18. 

“I was a brother [‘abi’ in Turkish] of the Gülen community [‘cemaat’ in Turkish]. I once went for a meal with [Fethullah] Gülen,” Sönmez added. 

“Abi” is a term used within the Gülen movement to refer to individuals responsible for cultivating and attracting new members.

Öksüz, known as the Gülen movement’s “imam of the Air Force,” was detained near the Akıncı Air Base, the headquarters of the coup, on the morning of July 16, only to be released by Sönmez on July 18, after which he went on the run. The Interior Ministry has put a 4 million-Turkish Lira bounty on Öksüz’s head.

Sönmez was first temporarily suspended from job and then dismissed from profession by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). After being detained, he took advantage of the effective remorse law and was then put under house arrest with electronic monitoring. However, after it was found out that some of his initial statements at the police station did not match his later statements given to the prosecutor, he was once again jailed. 

“In my university years, I stayed at the dormitories and schools linked with the organization that I knew as the ‘cemaat’ [community]. I kept seeing the friends I met during that period even after I cut off my ties with the ‘cemaat,’ though without any organizational purposes. I have no accounts in the group’s financial institutions,” Sönmez reportedly told the prosecutor. 

Testifying that he did not personally know Öksüz, he also said he was not aware of his contribution to the coup attempt.

“I was absolutely not aware of Adil Öksüz’s contribution to the coup attempt. When I looked at Öksüz’s files, I did not see a need to take a new protection measure as the suspect was already banned from traveling abroad and was under a judicial control order issued by a previous judge. I certainly did not give this decision for the purpose of supporting the terror organization,” Sönmez added. 

The former judge also reportedly confessed to having eaten with Gülen during a meeting. 

“In a large room in a school, I ate together with Fethullah Gülen in a meeting consisting of mostly judge candidates. I don’t remember who else participated in that meeting,” Sönmez reportedly said.