An Ankara court on Friday accepted an indictment filed by prosecutors against those who supervised the bloody July 15 coup attempt last year from the Akıncılar Air Base in Ankara.
The indictment charges 481 suspects, including 25 generals, of trying to topple the government through armed insurrection and accuses Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen as the principal culprit behind the coup attempt, with Adil Aksüz and Kemal Batmaz the number two and number three suspects. Forty-five of the suspects are charged with crimes that carry a penalty of life in prison without parole.More than 1,000 lawsuits were filed against FETÖ after the attempted putsch that killed 248 people. Out of those, 78 of the lawsuits are directly related to the coup, allegedly carried out by military officers loyal to the U.S.-based preacher and his sprawling empire of companies and schools.
Coup trials alone have 1,986 defendants, with 1,232 of them currently being held in custody in 21 provinces.
Gülen, who lives in a tightly protected compound in Pennsylvania, is the "number one" suspect in most of the cases, along with Adil Öksüz, his alleged right-hand man who masterminded the coup plot. Öksüz, seemingly just a mid-level theological studies academic at Sakarya University, was actually a senior level operative within FETÖ and was given authority by Gülen to oversee the coup attempt. The Ankara indictment shows how crucial Öksüz's contribution was to the entire plot. Öksüz, identified as the FETÖ imam of the Air Force, was arrested the day after the coup attempt but released by a FETÖ infiltrated court and has been missing ever since.
The indictment shows that FETÖ started planning the coup soon after the Nov. 1, 2015 general elections, from which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) emerged as the victor. Having realized that there was no democratic way to topple the government, FETÖ initiated its takeover plans through military means.
Öksüz is known to have traveled to the U.S, Germany and South Africa – all countries where FETÖ has considerable presence – many times before the Nov. 1, 2015 elections, but his trips afterwards, for a lowly religious studies academic, are especially suspicious.
Öksüz went to the U.S. on July 11, days before the coup attempt, retuning on July 13.
Many suspected FETÖ operatives currently in jail traveled to Germany, Pakistan, the U.S. and U.K. at the same time as Öksüz. All of them have denied accompanying Öksüz during the trip or meeting him at the destination, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Late last month, an indictment showed that the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul made a telephone call to Öksüz on July 21, 2016, at a time when Öksüz was on the run. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his visit to Ankara said such a call was "routine" for those whose visa application was rejected.
Eight months after the coup attempt, Öksüz remains at large, while conspiracy theories flourish in his absence. Several media outlets reported he "took shelter" in a building owned by a foreign diplomatic mission. 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.