Panel on coup attempt seeks reply from army, intel

Panel on coup attempt seeks reply from army, intel

One of the key points in the row between President Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu ahead of the April 16 referendum campaign about whether to shift Turkey from a parliamentary to an executive presidential system has been the dark points from the foiled July 15, 2016, coup attempt in the country.

Kılıçdaroğlu frequently criticizes President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government of deliberately allowing certain aspects of the coup attempt to remain concealed for political expediency. For example, Kılıçdaroğlu claims that there were “at least 120” AK Parti politicians who had the encrypted messaging system ByLock loaded on their phones, signaling their connections with the secret network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the military coup attempt. Whenever Kılıçdaroğlu urges Erdoğan to reveal the names, Erdoğan asks him to reveal the names – particularly “before April 16,” in a threatening fashion. 

Another matter of debate is Yıldırım’s refusal to give permission to two key figures in the coup attempt, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Hakan Fidan, to testify before the parliamentary commission established to investigate the coup attempt. Research commissions in parliament do not have the power to act like a court but their reports could be used by prosecutors to open probes.

Both the use of ByLock and the blocking of two key figures from testifying has turned eyes to the commission report. When the commission ended its three months of sessions with the testimonies of 141 people on Jan. 4, 2017, its chairman, Reşat Petek, an MP for the AK Parti, said the report would be submitted to parliament as soon as possible. 

But a CHP member of the panel, Aytun Çıray, recently claimed that they had not even seen the draft report yet. He also said that, unlike the general tendency, the chairman had not asked legal advisers of party groups attending the panel to participate in the draft committee and instead hired government officials to do that, so they are not sure about the kind of work that is being conducted.

Petek confirmed on the phone to the Hürriyet Daily News that the draft report of the commission had not yet been delivered to any of the parties, “including the AK Parti.” 

“The opposition is distorting the truth by implying that it was not given to them only,” he said. “The draft of it has not been completed yet. It may have been completed by now, but we have been interrupted by the referendum campaign. At this moment, I am traveling from village to village for the [“yes”] campaign. But this is not the only reason for the delay. There is also the ongoing work for the evaluation of reports taken from government agencies; we also have those in addition to the 141 testimonies. When it is completed after April 16, it will be delivered to all members.”

Petek also confirmed the claims that no members appointed by opposition parties were permitted to take part in the drafting committee. “We decided to recruit authorized government officials, 20 of them, for the drafting committee. Some of them have returned to their positions; some of them are still working for us.” 

On the politicians accused of using Bylock and their possible links with the coup attempt, Petek said it was not in the power of the commission to research matters which were already a matter for legal prosecution, according to Article 138 of the constitution. “We don’t have such a list,” he said.

On the lack of testimonies of the heads of military and intelligence, Petek said the following:

* “When we saw that the lack of testimonies could lead the public to the thought that the report was incomplete, we [the commission] wrote letters to the Chief of Staff and MİT to allow them to answer certain questions. There is no reply from MİT; there is no reply that they were not going to answer as well. Of course that might have been interrupted by the referendum, too. We forwarded some questions to the Chief of Staff headquarters, but we did not hear anything from them either. There is of course an expectation of answers.”

* On the question of whether they were waiting for the answers from the military and MİT to complete the report, Petek said: “That is not the only reason. We can write the report without those answers. But for the sake of the better enlightenment of the public, we of course would like to have answers from those two [agencies]. The public, the commission, the parties in the commission and I as the chairman of the commission have such expectations. In this way, the report might satisfy the public better.

* “If there is no answer, we could cite the immediate testimony of Gen. Akar to prosecutors right after the coup attempt. We could cite news reports that have not been denied by MİT about their position on the night of July 15. The lack of answers to our questions will not make the report too incomplete, but the perception in the public about it being a just and fair report is important as well.”

Asked whether the lack of a reply from the military and the intelligence service would negatively affect the perception of the report, Petek said: “Certainly. That’s why I personally prefer that we get the answers.”