As it went into its 11th hearing yesterday, the biggest trial on last year's July 15 coup bid was mired in what critics call a string of unconvincing defenses and odd excuses.
Since the trial on what happened at the Akıncı military base in the capital Ankara on July 15, 2016 began earlier this month, a number of defendants have claimed they were not involved in the putsch bid.
They linked their presence in the base that night to a vast array of excuses, ranging from a visit to find land to purchase to "a social activity," while a defendant even claimed he was there for "happy hour."
So far, all have denied their links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), whose infiltrators in the army are accused of conducting the putsch attempt that killed 250 people.
In the trial being held in Ankara's Sincan district, which is home to a large prison housing putsch suspects, 486 defendants, including FETÖ's U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen, face aggravated life sentences for their role in the coup bid.
Kemal Batmaz, a former executive of Kaynak Kağıt, a paper company that operated one of the largest business conglomerates affiliated with the terrorist group, told the court he was "near" Akıncı to see a plot of land he planned to purchase, in the company of Harun Biniş, another employee of a FETÖ-linked company. Both men were caught on camera in the military base and Batmaz is accused of being a senior non-military figure in the terrorist group who executed the coup plot.
Biniş has not testified yet, while Batmaz flatly denied that it was him in the security camera footage, despite multiple expert witnesses and high-definition footage taken from security cameras showing it was clearly him walking freely in the aisles of the military base.
At one point in the footage, Batmaz even nods when a pro-coup general gives him a military salute.
Meanwhile, Nurettin Oruç told the court he was in Kazan, the district where the Akıncı base is located, to shoot a documentary on livestock breeding. It would be a coincidence, as Oruç claimed, were it not for the fact that Akıncı was actually the command center of the nationwide coup attempt and the place where fighter jets took off to strike the Parliament and the presidential complex.
Oruç was also caught on camera walking inside the base, though he claimed he has never been inside, insisting that he was "out in the open" in a field where gendarmerie forces captured him. Oruç, who has links to the terrorist group like other defendants, had no cellphone on him, also in tune with other key defendants, claiming he forgot to bring it with him that day.
Hakan Çiçek, owner of a private school linked to the terrorist group, was among non-military suspects caught at the base and is accused of being a point man for staff officers loyal to FETÖ.
Çiçek said he was at the base for "a social activity" he described as "happy hour," where he sought "to promote his school to officers seeking to enroll their children there."
Like most defendants who claimed they stumbled into the middle of an ongoing coup attempt, Çiçek told the court he was invited to the base by Col. Ahmet Özçetin, another suspect in the trial. Özçetin denies the charges.
Former Col. Muzaffer Düzenli, who was a department head at the Land Forces Command, defended his presence in Akıncı as "an invitation to a social activity." Düzenli is accused of coordinating the coup attempt in Istanbul and his WhatsApp messages show he ordered the killing of civilians opposing the coup.
The former colonel was among those who attended the secret meetings to plan the coup attempt, according to defendants confessing their ties to the putschists.
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