Staying home when your contingent is staging a coup

Staying home when your contingent is staging a coup

When the June 15 coup attempt failed, the next day on July 16, 2016 putschist officers at Ankara’s Güvercinlik Base at the Army Aviation Command were apprehended and handed over to the judicial authorities. One of the officers active in this operation was Colonel İdris Feyzi Okan, army aviation regiment commander. 

Colonel Okan was the commander of the helicopter pilots who actively participated in the coup attempt. However, he did not take part in the rebellion. He spent the night outside the headquarters, at home. The next day, while the process of turning in the putschist officers was ongoing at the base, Okan was next to Army Aviation Commander Gen. Hakan Atınç, who was apprehended by the putschists at the base in his office one night before.  

According to Okan’s statement, when they entered the base together with Gen. Atınç in the morning, they found one of the putschist officers Murat Bolat. Okan said Bolat started crying. “I hit his head with my hand and told him to stop crying,” he added.

Colonel Okan was rewarded for his stance on July 15. Even though he was not staff officer, he was promoted to brigadier general on July 29 at the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting. When base Commander Atınç was appointed to another position, İdris Feyzi Okan became Army Aviation Commander. 

Brigadier general Okan was active in his job until he was ordered to be detained on Jan. 18 on charges of participating in the coup attempt and trying to topple the government. He was detained in his office and was arrested at the Court of First Instance on Jan. 20. 

Okan was dismissed from the military with a state of emergency decree (KHK) dated April 29. He is now defendant number 74 in the Army Aviation Command case. 

Okan’s file is one of the most interesting cases in the indictment. At first, there was no association with him and the coup plotters. He spent the night at home. But when the investigation deepened, Prosecutor Alparslan Karabay noticed a series of strange situations. 

The first one is that after base commander Atınç summoned him after the land forces commander left the base on 9:37 p.m., Okan asked permission to smoke a cigarette. While he was smoking outside, executive officer Lt. Col. Mehmet Şahin told Okan that the school commander had to give a long presentation to Gen. Atınç and he did not need to wait. The colonel told him to inform Atınç that he left because of this, so he left the headquarters after smoking. 

Camera recordings show that activity started at Gen. Atınç’s office at 9:44 p.m. Four coup plotters entered the office and took him. Cameras show that Okan left the base in his official vehicle at 9.51 p.m. 

Okan went home and started seeing reports of the coup on TV. When he saw the attack helicopters (under his command) flying and firing, he called executive officer Lt. Col. Mehmet Şahin. Şahin told him: “Gen. Hakan Atınç is here. Everything is under control, there is no need for you to come.” He asked his friend Colonel Mustafa Güneş to come to his home. Güneş told him: “Stay at home. If you go now, you would either join them or they would kill you. Then later you would be considered one of them, you cannot prove your innocence.” Another colonel friend of his came and they all stayed at home.   

Another suspicious situation, according to the prosecutor, is the fact that Okan’s mobile phones were switched off throughout the night. According to the statements of both the coup plotting and non-plotting helicopter pilots, they called their commander throughout the night but could not reach him. Okan said one of his phones was broken, while his official phone was on silent mode and later ran out of battery. 

The prosecutor claims that “upon the orders he received” Okan left control of the base to the suspects, went home, and turned off his phones. 

Another accusation against him is that even though he knew about the two attack helicopters secretly brought from Malatya to Ankara that day, he did not inform the base commander.  

The debate over Okan will become clearer when the case, which will start on July 31, is completed. If he is acquitted then the difficult situation he experienced will be left behind. But if he is found guilty, then we can conclude that on that day, when the Gülen network launched the coup, as a tactic, they deliberately held back certain components and kept them off the field.