July 15 and Akıncı Air Base (7): The general on Adil Öksüz’s phone records

July 15 and Akıncı Air Base (7): The general on Adil Öksüz’s phone records

The Combined Air Operations Center (BHHM) in Eskişehir is a command post where the tension reflected on the Turkish air field from the coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 was experienced one-on-one.

Here is the most crucial center in terms of military control of the Turkish air field. Every kind of military aircraft that takes off, every military air movement on the Turkish air field is monitored and recorded here. As a matter of fact, all kinds of movements on the night of July 15, 2016 in the Turkish air field have been monitored from here. A series of decisions having a critical effect on the night’s flow have been made and coordinated from here.

In the indictment prepared for the Akıncı Air Base, we can read what happened that night in the Combined Air Operations Center (BHHM) in Eskişehir both through the air force’s official reports and witness statements. 

Tension between the general and colonel

The attitude of two soldiers, one brigadier general, the other a staff colonel, who performed a duty here that night, is striking. Witness statements show that the two had tension the whole night and at some point a “quarrel.” At one corner of this tension stands the center’s “Command” Brigadier Gen. Recep Ünal and at the other corner the Chief of Staff Operations Col. İsmail Üner.

In the indictment statements, it immediately strikes the eye that Col. Üner, showed a strong initiative against the coup right from the start following his arrival to the center around 22:25 p.m. 

Yet, the basic accusation against Brigadier Gen. Ünal in the indictment is that he “did not take any substantive action to prevent a coup attempt.”

“The command was taken over by Col. Üner; as Üner was giving orders to prevent the activities for a coup attempt, the higher-ranking Recep Ünal did not put any effort to stop the coup,” the prosecutor Ramazan Dinç argues that night in BHHM.

‘Avoided phone calls’

The witnesses bring similar accusations against Ünal. In his testimony to the prosecutor as a witness, the then Air Defense Commander Lieutenant General Nihat Kökmen, who travelled from Istanbul to Eskişehir at midnight, indicated that “Recep Ünal became inactive” and he (Kökmen) “ran carried out activities with İsmail Üner instead of Ünal” after having come to the headquarters at midnight. 

The Combatant Air Force and Air Missile Defense Commander Mehmet Şanver, who was at the time the highest ranking commander in the headquarters in Eskişehir, also gave his testimony as a witness.

“When I called BHHM, after a while, İsmail Üner started to answer phone calls previously answered by Recep Ünal. When I asked where Ünal was, I was told that he went to the toilet. I could not contact Gen. Recep Ünal later again. I gave the order to Col. İsmail Üner,” he said.

The indictment claimed that Recep Ünal had prevented two F-16 planes from taking off from Erzurum, which were to stop F-16 planes that had taken off from Diyarbakır in an unauthorized way to go to Akıncı Air Base at around 10.30 p.m. that night. There is a series of accusations against Ünal like this. 

The currently arrested Recep Ünal denies the charges, accusing him of supporting the coup attempt, in a categorical way in his testimony to the prosecutor’s office. “Right from the start, I tried to prevent the coup attempt and in the end, we did prevent the coup. If the BHHM command post had not taken an initiative to prevent the coup, the situation could have been very different,” he said. 

Ünal is connected to Öksüz and Batmaz

On the other hand, there is critical evidence that the prosecutor’s office focuses especially on in the indictment. This evidence, according to the prosecutor’s office, is that a connection has been determined between Adil Öksüz, known as the “Air Force İmam” and who was caught in the morning of July 16 in an open area near the air base by the gendarmerie after having spent the night of July 15 on Akıncı Air Base and Brigadier Gen. Ünal. 

Official Historical Traffic Search (HTS) records that show contact and outgoing signal records on the phone have revealed that a total of 177 phone contacts took place between a mobile phone used by Adil Öksüz operationally between 2010 and 2012 and Recep Ünal’s operationally-used phone. 

When we look at HTS records, it is not only Adil Öksüz who was in contact with Recep Ünal in this period. Kemal Batmaz, who was captured in the open field like Öksüz, is also connected to Recep Ünal. According to HTS records in the indictment, Kemal Batmaz and Recep Ünal held a total of 62 phone conversations between 2010 and 2012. 

Recep Ünal was a staff colonel during this period. He got promoted as a brigadier general from the sixth place in August 2013 following decisions reached by the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ).

As it can be seen, in many of the files regarding the events at the air force on the night of the July 15, we come across Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz. 

Because of a coup suspect general, another common point has emerged between the pair of Öksüz and Batmaz, who both went to the U.S. on the same place four days prior to the coup and came back to Turkey two days later on July 13 on the same plane.