A new week of trials regarding the July 15 coup attempt by a junta loyal to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) commenced on Monday with testimony from the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) elite Special Forces, Zekai Aksakallı, who spoke at a hearing for the first time since he managed to escape from coup plotters.
Aksakallı, who is currently in Syria overseeing a counterterror operation, provided written testimony to the court in the capital city Ankara, giving his account of what happened that night in his headquarters and how an officer who carried out his orders became the hero of the day by shooting a pro-coup general.
The general managed to avoid coup plotters who tried to kidnap him during the coup attempt that left 248 people dead. He has been credited with foiling the plans of putschists by ordering the killing of pro-coup general Semih Terzi who was trying to take over the command of the Special Forces.
Ömer Halisdemir, a noncommissioned officer working for Aksakallı, shot Terzi dead as the latter arrived at the headquarters. Halisdemir was killed by pro-coup troops accompanying Terzi.
In his testimony, Aksakallı said Semih Terzi was on formal leave when he flew to the Special Forces headquarters.
"I had eight phone calls with Halisdemir. I told him that Terzi was a traitor and that he should kill him," Aksakallı said.
Halisdemir, hiding near the entrance of the base, fired at Terzi as he entered. Terzi died while he was being transported to a hospital, while Halisdemir was shot dead by a lieutenant who is among the trial's defendants.
Aksakallı said he returned to the base when anti-coup forces seized it.
"I saw the body of Halisdemir lying on the ground, covered with a sheet. I lifted the cover and kissed him on his forehead," Aksakallı said.
Aksakallı had left a wedding ceremony when pro-coup troops in unmarked vehicles stopped his car. The general managed to evade detection and called Special Forces headquarters, only to be informed by pro-coup troops there that he had been "dismissed" and Terzi would be replacing him as commander.
"Halisdemir is a soldier I have known since the beginning of his career. I told him that shooting Terzi would end with his death but he accepted it anyway," he recounted.
The general said only "5 percent" of Special Forces troops sided with coup plotters.
Eighteen defendants, all military officers, are being tried for the killing of Halisdemir.
As they were brought to court from prison, a large crowd of citizens shouted slogans calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty. The protesters also displayed an effigy of FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen with a noose around his neck.
Gülen, who currently lives in the U.S., faces multiple life sentences in several trials in Turkey but refuses to return to the country to testify. Turkey hopes Washington will extradite him before his likely escape to another country.
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