An indictment on what happened at Akıncı, a military base in the capital Ankara that was used as a command center by pro-coup troops during the July 15 coup attempt, was released on Friday.
The indictment says Fetullah Gülen, leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), would settle in a building in the base if the coup, blamed on his terrorist group, succeeded.
It also sheds light on key figures of the coup that killed 248 people and names Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz as two point men of Gülen who executed the coup with the aid of Akın Öztürk, a former general accused of coordinating coup efforts.
Gülen is the prime suspect in the indictment in which 481 defendants are included as suspects, but it is Öksüz, a theology lecturer who turned out to be Gülen's lieutenant for the execution of the foiled coup bid, who draws the attention of prosecutors.
Öksüz is the only man who disappeared after the coup attempt, while Gülen lives in Pennsylvania in the United States; Kemal Batmaz, another "civilian" Gülenist who accompanied Öksüz, was jailed after the coup.
Öztürk was also jailed and was among the hundreds of military officers convicted of the coup charges. Öksüz remains at large after his controversial release that followed his capture at Akıncı.
Gülen denies links to the coup, but evidence that surfaced after the putsch was quelled shows he actually gave approval for the plot to seize power by FETÖ-linked military officers, from generals to non-commissioned officers.
The indictment, accompanied with photos of Akıncı Air Base and images from security camera footage showing those involved in the coup, says Gülen was "number one" in the coup attempt, and Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz are named as his accomplices. Öksüz was nabbed by security forces at the base after the coup was quelled, while Batmaz is seen in the security camera footage included in the indictment as he walks freely in the aisles of the military base's command floor and at some point, receiving a military salute from an officer. Batmaz was a businessman running a FETÖ-linked company and among the few civilians at the base on the coup night.
The 4,658-page indictment says 10 civilians were involved in the coup bid. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ministers and lawmakers are among the plaintiffs in the indictment. Erdoğan escaped an assassination attempt during the putsch bid, while Parliament was bombed by fighter jets that took off from the Akıncı base. Prosecutors say 11 F-16 fighter jets dropped bombs on several locations, while two aircraft tried to scare people by creating sonic booms in Istanbul. Two other fighter jets were used to track down Erdoğan's plane as he was navigating his way out of trouble when an elite team of assassins landed near the hotel where he was staying in southwestern Turkey. Coup plotters also flew 10 F-16 fighter jets that took off from Akıncı.
The indictment, the most comprehensive of its kind so far in relation to the coup attempt, gives details on various episodes of the coup attempt that revolved around the Akıncı base. These include the bombing of police headquarters, the headquarters of a satellite provider, an elite military unit opposing the coup, Parliament, streets near the Presidential Palace, as well as the dispatch of fighter jets from other cities to Ankara. Defendants are also accused of attempts to kidnap generals opposing the coup in Istanbul and bringing them to the Akıncı base. Army chief Hulusi Akar and other top military brass opposing the coup were also held at the base closed down after the putsch bid.
Prosecutors named each fighter jet pilot responsible for the killing of civilians during the coup bid. Officers Ertan Koral and Mehmet Çetin Kaplan are accused of killing seven during the bombing of aerial unit headquarters of the Turkish National Police. Hüseyin Türk and Uğur Uzunoğlu are accused of flying the fighter jets that dropped bombs at the Special Operations headquarters of the police, killing 44 people. Müslim Macit is blamed for killing 15 people by a bomb fired from the fighter jet he was flying near the presidential palace. In total, 68 people were killed by fighter jet airstrikes that took off from Akıncı, while nine civilians opposing the coup that tried to block the entrance of the military were also shot dead by pro-coup troops.
Gülen is prime suspect
Gülen is already implicated in a string of coup-related trials as the prime suspect, but this retired preacher, whose Hizmet movement evolved into a terror cult, planned to return to Turkey from his self-imposed exile, the indictment shows. Like Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, Gülen, who posed as a man promoting religious teachings, would return home if the coup succeeded, and for his return, the coup plotters even prepared a building inside the Akıncı base.
The base would serve as the new headquarters of the Turkish army if the coup succeeded as evidence shows pro-coup troops brought the army's flag, originally kept in the Office of the Chief of Staff, to the base. An image included in the indictment shows a building under construction adjacent to the command building at the Akıncı base. "Gülen would return to Turkey on July 25 and would be accommodated here if the coup succeeded," prosecutors say in the indictment. Other images show several small rooms arranged as "interrogation rooms" by pro-coup troops to interrogate or torture those they abducted.
Gülen would "contact" Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar according to the indictment. Akar has told prosecutors that Hakan Evrim, a pro-coup general who met him after his abduction from the army headquarters, told him he can "arrange a phone call with Gülen, our leader."
Gülen currently resides in a retreat owned by a foundation linked to his terror cult, and Turkey seeks his extradition from the United States. Like others involved in the coup attempt, Gülen faces multiple life sentences.
Critics of FETÖ say Gülen always tried to wield power in Turkey, and since his rise to prominence in the 1970s as an influential preacher, he plotted to have followers infiltrate law enforcement, the judiciary, the military and the bureaucracy. His sermons in 1990s hint at Gülen's ambition to seize power as he instructed his followers to infiltrate the "veins of the state" and wait for the right time for complete takeover. FETÖ is accused of running a campaign of massive infiltration into the army for decades, and its members managed to disguise themselves for years according to the prosecutors. The coup attempt was actually "premature" another indictment on the coup attempt says as FETÖ members planned it for a later date but rushed when the state decided to dismiss those suspected of having links to FETÖ in the army through a meeting of the Military Council in August 2016.
Adİl Öksüz: Key coup figure
An early leak of the indictment has sparked outrage in Turkey as it revealed that Öksüz was telephoned by the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul while he was on the run. Turkish authorities were baffled why the U.S. consulate would call a wanted man linked to the coup, while U.S. officials explained in a statement that it was to inform Öksüz that his U.S. visa had been cancelled, "a routine procedure." Öksüz was a frequent traveller to the United States, and investigators discovered he bought a plane ticket to that country for a date after the coup bid.
Naturally, the first excerpts of the indictment distributed to the media, focused on Öksüz. A seemingly ordinary man with a thin mustache associated with Gülenists, he was found to be the "air force imam" for FETÖ, coordinating the terrorist group's infiltrators in the Turkish Air Force. When he was captured at the Akıncı base, he told interrogators that he was there "to look for a piece of land he planned to buy" near the base and was released hours after his detention by judges citing a lack of evidence. An investigation is underway for judges and prosecutors who arranged his release, while it was discovered that Öksüz gave false addresses as his residence in Ankara to authorities and did not take a taxi near the base to look for property as he claimed in his first statement to the police.
The indictment says Öksüz flew to Istanbul from Ankara three days after the coup and traveled to Akyazı, a town near Istanbul where his relatives lived, on July 19. His cellphone signals show he traveled by car from Istanbul to Akyazı, and a record of his phone calls shows that the U.S. Consulate called him on July 21, but he did not reply it. Prosecutors say Öksüz was also a user of Bylock, the encrypted messaging app exclusively used by FETÖ.
Conspiracy theories flourished in his absence. Several media outlets reported he "took shelter" in a building owned by a foreign diplomatic mission, like German journalist Deniz Yücel, who was offered protection by the German Embassy, while he was on the run from law enforcement for terror-related charges. Selçuk Özdağ, a lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party who also serves as acting chairman of a parliamentary committee investigating the coup, also echoed that theory. Speaking to A Haber TV on Thursday, Özdağ said he believed Öksüz was "hiding in an embassy in Turkey."
Turkey placed Öksüz in the "red category" of the most wanted terror suspects, offering up to TL 4 million ($1.1 million) for tip-offs to help his capture, but he is believed to have fled abroad as nationwide searches have failed to locate him.
Another 'civilian' at the base
Batmaz is another FETÖ member prominently figuring in the coup attempt at Akıncı base. Batmaz was the man discovered in security camera footage at an Istanbul airport while walking with Öksüz, and prosecutors located him in Sincan prison in Ankara where FETÖ-linked figures were incarcerated after the coup attempt. Further inquiry showed it was also Batmaz who was seen -- with other civilians -- walking in the corridors of the command floor at Akıncı with uniformed officers. An officer even gives him a military-style salute in one of the images. Batmaz had claimed it was not he in the security footage and has claimed his walk with Öksüz at the airport was purely a coincidence.
A former executive of Kaynak Kağıt, a paper company owned by Kaynak Holding, one of the largest FETÖ-run conglomerates, Batmaz was at the base with Harun Biniş, "a friend," and like Öksüz, he has claimed they were there to "look for a piece of land to buy" near the base. Biniş, a computer expert who also worked at a FETÖ-linked company, was also the man who attended meetings of Öksüz and pro-coup officers in a villa in Ankara days before the putsch bid. It was in that villa Öksüz and others plotted the coup, and it was there Öksüz told FETÖ infiltrators in the army that Gülen approved the coup, according to testimonies of eyewitnesses.
Batmaz was both on a flight with Öksüz on July 11 to the United States and a return flight on July 12.
The indictment says Batmaz and Öksüz had frequently flown to the United States on almost same dates and had made 925 phone calls.
Akın Öztürk: Coup's commander
A former head of the Turkish Air Force and a member of the powerful Military Council overseeing he appointment of generals, Öztürk portrayed himself as a "grandfather visiting his grandchildren" at the Akıncı base when he was arrested. However, prosecutors say he is actually the leader of the coup plotters who formed what they called the "Peace At Home Council" on July 15.
The indictment says Öztürk "organized and executed the coup" and "gave orders to the coup plotters."
Öztürk flew from the western city of İzmir to Ankara on July 15, skipping a wedding ceremony he was expected to attend in Istanbul. He was at the base throughout the day according to the prosecutors and held meetings with Ömer Faruk Harmancık, Kubilay Selçuk and Hakan Evrim, generals who led the coup attempt at Akıncı. Hakan Karakuş, a lieutenant colonel who is also Öztürk's son-in-law, was also captured at the base and is accused of working with pro-coup troops.
Öztürk, other generals, Öksüz, Batmaz, Hakan Çiçek and Nurettin Oruç -- two other "civilians" captured at the base on July 15 -- arranged the flights, potential targets for pro-coup troops and assigned officers to coup-related tasks, prosecutors say.
"He was treated as the Chief of Staff by the coup plotters," the indictment says, noting that Mehmet Partigöç, a general at army headquarters accused of helping the abduction of Chief of Staff Akar, contacted Öztürk after Akar was taken hostage. "We evacuate the commander to Akıncı, meet him there," Partigöç told Öztürk in a phone call after Akar was taken to the military base, according to the indictment, which is based on eyewitness accounts.