A new coup trial opened in the capital Ankara yesterday focusing on the military staff who piloted helicopters that fired at civilians and anyone opposing the putschists during last year's July 15 coup bid blamed on the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). A total of 155 defendants, all military officers except three, are accused of firing at civilians, ambulances, police cars and attempting to kill Zekai Aksakallı, the anti-coup commander of the Special Forces on July 15, 2016.
The defendants were stationed at the helicopter unit's central command of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) at the time of the coup that killed 250 people and injured hundreds of others. They flew above Ankara as the public started gathering in the streets to confront the putschists and fired on the unarmed crowds from the helicopters. They face terror and coup charges that carry aggravated life imprisonment. An indictment on the defendants say the helicopter pilots sought to locate Aksakallı's car after the latter managed to dodge the pro-coup soldiers' abduction attempt. Witness testimonies say a lieutenant colonel commanding the pro-coup troops in the helicopter unit ordered them to shoot at Aksakallı's car. Aksakallı survived the attacks and is credited with foiling the coup bid in Ankara when he ordered his aide Ömer Halisdemir to kill Semih Terzi, one of the generals commanding the coup. Halisdemir killed Terzi but was murdered by Terzi's men. Audio recordings of radio messages between pro-coup officers piloting the helicopters are also included in the indictment and give a chilling insight into the coup night. "I see a Cobra [an armored police vehicle], shoot it if you can," a pilot tells another via radio in one message, while another calls for firing at "any vehicles approaching the army headquarters," which was occupied by putschists during the coup bid. Another message tells pilots to "shoot at any vehicle with sirens."
Uğur Kapan, a colonel who transported army Chief Hulusi Akar to the prime ministry after Akar was rescued from the military base where he was held by putschists, was the first to testify in the hearing. Kapan denied his initial testimony to police and claimed he was "tortured," a defense almost all those accused in the bid have used in the coup trials. Kapan told the investigators he saw Adil Öksüz, a senior FETÖ figure accused of masterminding the coup attempt at the base where Akar was held, but told the court it was not Öksüz he saw in the base on July 15. Kapan said he was not a member of the terrorist group and denied online correspondence with other pro-coup troops to coordinate the airstrikes by putschists.