Top ex-soldier to stand before coup commission

Top ex-soldier to stand before coup commission

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Top ex-soldier to stand before coup commission

Hilmi Özkök (R). Hürriyet photo

A parliamentary panel investigating military coups conducted in the past has invited former army chief Hilmi Özkök to share information and his own experiences of coups and coup attempts, particularly those that occurred during his term as chief of general staff.

Özkök is expected to appear before the Parliamentary Coup Inquiry Commission on Oct. 4. Now retired, he served as the chef of general staff between 2002 and 2006, a period in which a number of high-ranking soldiers allegedly attempted to topple the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Özkök will also be subjected to questioning about the earlier coups of 1980 and the “post-modern coup” of 1997.

Who prevented the coup?

Meanwhile, former land forces commander General Aytaç Yalman has claimed that he also helped prevent a coup plot against the Justice and Development Party (AKP), saying this was written in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case indictment. Speaking to İsmail Küçükkaya, editor of daily Akşam, Yalman questioned the recent portrayal of Özkök being the sole actor in preventing the Balyoz coup plot from being carried out.

“The Turkish army is not made of one person. It is not only the chief of general staff who makes the army. The Turkish army means the Turkish land forces command. How many tanks or rifles did Hilmi Pasha have [at the time]?” Yalman said, adding that the indictment also supported his own claim to have helped prevent the coup from taking place.

‘Situation affects the system’

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had already expressed sadness on Sept. 25 over the court verdict in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case, in which 324 retired and serving soldiers were each sentenced to 13 to 20 years in prison. The TSK underlined that it expected an equitable final verdict once the judicial process was completed.

Reminded of various ongoing cases and investigations in which retired and serving members of the TSK are involved, current Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel was invited to comment on the situation in an interview with daily Türkiye newspaper. “The situation of the said staff affects the system for sure. As previously stated, the necessary measures are being taken so that the Turkish Armed Forces does not experience negative results in fulfilling its duties – assigned by the constitution and laws - due to the arrest of experienced staff who are thus prevented from serving in their posts,” Özel said. “Psychological factors play a role against the struggle with terror besides martial factors, and our staff being involved in the judicial process deeply saddens us. However, the idea that this sadness will weaken our determination in the fight against terror is out of the question,” he added.

Meanwhile, two more retired soldiers were arrested yesterday as part of the Balyoz case.