In Monday's hearing of Turkey's biggest trial on the coup attempt that took place on July 15, 2016, a colonel accused of coordinating acts of violence against anti-coup civilians and generals defended himself by saying he was a victim of "a conspiracy." Muzaffer Düzenli was a high-ranking officer in the Land Forces Command during the coup attempt. Düzenli is among 486 defendants on trial in the capital Ankara accused of commanding the putsch bid that is blamed on infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in the army, from Akıncı Air Base in the city.
The disgraced former colonel was spotted walking freely on the military base in civilian clothes in security camera footage retrieved from the base and was accused of sending messages to coordinate the Istanbul chapter of the violent takeover.
"Get First Army Commander," one such message reads, referring to an anti-coup general. Another message he sent to a group chat via WhatsApp to fellow putschists orders "harsh intervention to masses, soldiers and police." "Don't allow police to leave Bayrampaşa," one message he sent says, referring to the district where the riot police headquarters are located in Istanbul.
Düzenli also instructed or ordered the kidnapping of anti-coup generals gathered at a wedding hall on the coup night, unaware of the violent attempt that killed 250 people.
He told the court that some "shady people using high-tech software" put his number in the WhatsApp group used by putschists to communicate and he was victim of a plot. He claimed he was disliked by colleagues and they might have perpetrated a conspiracy against him.
He said he went to Akıncı Air Base on July 15 for "a social activity," a common defense among the defendants. He claimed the putschists he did not name asked him to join them and handcuffed him when he opposed. He said his cellphone was "taken" by the putschists and it must be them who wrote the messages.
The charges against Düzenli are not limited to WhatsApp messages. He is accused of holding secret meetings with fellow putschists before July 15 in Istanbul.
Murat Yanık, an officer who attended the meetings, admitted that Düzenli "put the final touch" on the coup plan in their last meeting on July 14, 2016 and it was also Düzenli who told them the coup would be "rescheduled."
The indictments on the putsch attempt say that FETÖ-linked officers would actually carry out the attempt in the early hours of July 16 but changed the date to the evening of July 15 in panic when they learned that the authorities were closing in on their coup plot.
Yanık says it was also Düzenli that instructed the coup plotters to set up the WhatsApp group for coordination. Messages sent via the group have helped investigators shed light on the role of each officer loyal to the putschists' Peace At Home Council and laid bare how far the coup plotters were determined to go, from using tanks to shelling unarmed civilians to abducting generals.
In the trial opened earlier this month, all of the defendants face aggravated life imprisonment. The indictment charges 481 suspects, including 25 generals, of trying to topple the government through armed insurrection and accuses FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen as the principal culprit behind the coup attempt, with Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz as the second and third main suspects.
More than 1,000 lawsuits were filed against FETÖ after the attempted putsch. The coup trials alone have 1,986 defendants.
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.
Gülenists have been infiltrating the army, law enforcement, judiciary and bureaucracy for decades, prosecutors say, before they moved to seize power in two coup attempts in 2013 by their infiltrators in the judiciary and police and finally, by infiltrators in the army.
Gülen denies any links to the coup but evidence that surfaced after the thwarted coup attempt shows that he actually gave approval for the plot to seize power by FETÖ-linked military officers, ranging from generals to noncommissioned officers. The indictment on what happened at Akıncı provides details on various events that unfolded during the coup attempt around the base where warplanes took off to strike strategic locations.
These include the bombing of police headquarters, the seizure of the satellite provider headquarters, an elite military unit opposing the coup, bombing of Parliament and on the streets near the Presidential Palace.
The defendants are also accused of attempting to kidnap generals opposing the coup in Istanbul and of bringing them to Akıncı Air Base. Army Chief Hulusi Akar and other top military brass opposing the coup were held hostage at the base that was closed down after the putsch bid. Prosecutors say Akın Öztürk, former head of the Air Forces, was the highest ranking military figure involved in the coup bid. According to the indictment, Öztürk "organized and executed the coup" and "gave orders to coup plotters."
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