A pro-coup former colonel who tried to abduct general Zekai Aksakallı during last year's July 15 putsch attempt told a court yesterday that he was "trying to protect him."
Fatih Yarımbaş, a member of the elite Special Forces Command, is accused of heading a team of soldiers who attempted to kidnap Special Forces Commander Aksakallı in the capital Ankara as the latter was dodging attempts on his life by putschists. The commander narrowly avoided the capture when Yarımbaş and others stopped his car.
The former officer is among 486 defendants in Turkey's biggest trial on the coup attempt blamed on military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). On Monday and yesterday, he presented his defense and answered questions from the plaintiff's lawyers.
Yarımbaş claimed he did not know that a coup attempt was underway and said he was dispatched to find Aksakallı by his superiors in order to "protect" him against terror attacks. He, however, failed to answer questions regarding where he would take Aksakallı to once he "secured" him.
Zekai Aksakallı is credited with helping to quell the coup attempt in Ankara, which was commanded from the Akıncı military base where Yarımbaş was captured. The commander had ordered his aide Ömer Halisdemir to shoot putschist general Semih Terzi. Terzi's killing thwarted coup plotters from taking over the elite unit's headquarters though Halisdemir was killed by the putschist general's troops. Yarımbaş told the court he is not "Fatih" Terzi referred to in a message to fellow putschist, which reads, "They could not take Zekai yet. Fatih is chasing him."
The former colonel said he never turned on the TV or radio and did not check the news online on the coup night and therefore "didn't know that a coup attempt was underway."
He said he simply "invited" Aksakallı to his car when he and other troops intercepted him and his driver but Aksakallı swore at them before kicking the (pro-coup) soldier opening his door. He claimed he did not know that Akıncı base was taken over by putschists but failed to explain how he was allowed onto the base where entries were banned by pro-coup troops a few hours before he arrived.
At the trial that opened earlier this month, all the defendants face aggravated life sentences. The indictment charges the suspects, including 25 generals, of trying to topple the government through armed insurrection.
Gülenists had 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.