A former general, who picked the would-be assassins of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during last year's coup attempt and coordinated efforts to seize power with fellow coup plotters, complained even "leftists" did not help the jailed putschists.
Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, who was handed down four life sentences for a bid to kill Erdoğan, was among the 486 defendants tried for the coup attempt at Akıncı military base in the capital Ankara. He is one of the members of the putschists' "Peace At Home Council" according to prosecutors. The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) is blamed for executing the insurrection bid through its infiltrators in the military.
Sönmezateş, who confessed that he willingly joined the bid unlike many other defendants in the coup trials, was defiant and bitter in yesterday's hearing before a court in Ankara. He insisted that he should not be tried for what transpired at Akıncı, which served as the putschists' command center according to an indictment. Warplanes taking off from the base carried out airstrikes targeting Parliament and the Presidential Palace during the July 15 coup. Top military brass, including Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, were held hostage at the base.
The former general complained that nobody cared about their "plight" and claimed it was "a test the Turkish left failed." Like almost all defendants in the coup trials, Sönmezateş denied links to FETÖ and described himself as a "social democrat."
The coup attempt killed 249 people and wounded hundreds of others. An unprecedented public resistance helped police and anti-coup soldiers to quell the putsch bid. A month after the coup, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People's Party (CHP) held a joint rally in Istanbul in a rare display of unity against what they termed as an attempt to derail democracy.
Multiple investigations revealed that FETÖ's military infiltrators masterminded the coup attempt under the leadership of Adil Öksüz, a fugitive theology lecturer who served as a point man for U.S.-based FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen. Several nonmilitary members of the terrorist group were caught at the Akıncı base, including Öksüz. Öksüz was later released due to a controversial court ruling. After the coup attempt was quelled, thousands were detained or arrested, and Turkey declared a state of emergency. In coup trials across Turkey, hundreds of military officers and pro-FETÖ civilians who helped them are being tried. Most defendants face aggravated life sentences for an "attempt to overthrow constitutional order." The defendants usually cling to a defense strategy of complete denial of their involvement despite evidence and most deny ties to the terrorist group.
As Sönmezateş was presenting his defense at yesterday's hearing, media outlets released security camera footage of the Air Force Academy in Istanbul showing military officers arriving for "a coup plot meeting." Sönmezateş is clearly seen in the footage as he enters the building for the meeting one-day before he and others moved to seize power. Sönmezateş is also accused of attending the meetings of Öksüz and putschist commanders in an Ankara villa long before July 15, 2016. A former general who attended the Ankara meetings had confessed that they discussed how to seize power with Öksüz and the fugitive suspect told them Gülen personally approved the plan.
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