A sleepy general on the night of the coup

A sleepy general on the night of the coup

They are all actually well aware that they are in an abnormal situation. For example, the co-pilot of the tanker aircraft “ASENA 3,” Lieutenant Fatih Akbulut, said in his testimony, “The base commander said, ‘You will go north in the direction of Ankara, you will supply fuel to the aircraft that asks for fuel from you. You will not get in contact with anyone on the transmitter.’ A suspicious idea came to my mind. Normally, we would go to the east and southeast, where we are struggling against terror.”

Tanker aircrafts are one of Turkey’s most important military possessions in the struggle against terror and in the event of a war. The seven tanker aircrafts in the inventory of the Air Supply Fuel Maintenance Center Command at the İncirlik air base are one of the most critical elements in Turkey’s aerial operations - especially in Turkey’s southeast and northern Iraq - against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

This military potential was not used against the PKK but instead was used against the Turkish people and its democracy by the Gülenist network on the evening of July 15, 2016.

The person who ordered for the aircraft to be used was the İncirlik 10th Tanker Base Commander Bekir Ercan Van, who commanded the fleet.

The base commander had planned the entire day’s schedule in accordance with the coup attempt that night. For example, he had also finished his shift early that Friday just like the Brig. Gen. Hakan Evrim of the Akıncı base. He made sure that each personnel who were not coup plotters left the base early, in a bid to start the preparations as soon as possible.

It was transmitted that there would be a flight that night or on Saturday to the personnel who were selected for the mission at around noon on July 15.

Van commanded the whole team to immediately come to the base that night at 9:00 p.m. in response to rescheduling the coup for an earlier time. Afterwards, he transgressed Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar’s order, who closed Turkish airspace to every military flight after the “No military aircraft will depart” order, announced on July 15 at 7:05 p.m., by operating the three tanker aircrafts’ take off on the night of the coup attempt.

After departure, before the many warnings for the aircraft’s landing from the United Air Operations Center (BHHM) responsible for the command of the Turkish airspace in Eskişehir, Van gave instructions to the personnel of the aircraft, saying, “Do not listen to the warnings, and continue with your destinations.”

That night, two F-16 jets took off at 1:10 a.m. from the İncirlik air base under the command of Van. This order came from the coup control center at the Akıncı base. Besides, Van was in a general “contact-free position” on July 15. For example, Adana Governor Mahmut Demirtaş could not reach him when he called him by phone. He, in return, testified in court, saying, “He called me twice, I recognized his voice, he did not hear me although I tried to speak.” Likewise, the efforts of BHHM officers in Eskişehir trying to reach him were also not successful.

Both of the two tanker aircrafts departing in the evening at around 10:45 p.m. landed in the base at around 6:00 a.m. Van called the staff, consisting of eight people and formed of the pilots of the aircraft and the technical team to the briefing room. “Colleagues, I am the one who gave you this order and I told you that this mission was an operation against terrorism. You obeyed my rules. If you give testimony, say in accordance with that,” he said. This way, he personally dictated to the personnel who had joined the coup attempt how to give their testimony. Today all of them are arrested on charges of being a Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) member in the Akinci case.

When you look at the facilities that he operated all night long, it becomes clear that Van displayed great skills with regards to contributing to a coup attempt and operating it from the air base. But when it comes to the question on who from he took the order to send the tanker aircraft to the coup attempt mission, we come across a “snooze” problem.

“I received an order through the military telephone to operate the departure of the tanker aircrafts in the Aerial Force Operations Center [in Ankara],” Van, in his defense, said. He told the prosecutor about the person who gave him the order, “At that time, I do not remember with whom I was speaking because I was sleepy.”

One and a half hours after this declaration, at around 9:45 p.m., in a message sent by coup plotters, who captured the communications system at the headquarters of the General Staff in Ankara, it would be announced that a martial law was declared in the country and that he was appointed as the commander of Adana.

There is another crucial information about Van: Specialist Sergeant Emrah Kuzu was appointed as his bodyguard and personal driver. 

His surname may not sound familiar to readers, but Emrah Kuzu is the son of Master Sergeant Zekeriya Kuzu, who is one of the most important actors in the team that went to Marmaris with a helicopter with the attempt to apprehend President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the morning of July 16, 2016.