A series of notes found in possession of a former military judge jailed for his links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) revealed how the members clung to denial in trials.
FETÖ is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and since then, thousands of people linked to the secretive group have been detained or arrested.
Aydın Keleş, who worked as a judge at a military court, was one of them. Police found a USB drive in his possession and its contents were a summary of what defendants in FETÖ trials should say in their defenses.
Notes, carrying the title "How to testify," advise group members to constantly deny allegations toward them and prolong legal proceedings as much as possible.
Investigations revealed that the terrorist group motivated its followers not to lose hope after a crackdown, promising "a spring" (a veiled reference to another attempt to a takeover) to their jailed members through secret messages relayed in videos of leader Fetullah Gülen.
Keleş is among 33 former military judges and prosecutors arrested after the coup bid that left 249 people dead.
FETÖ is known for its wide clout in Turkey where it planted infiltrators in the military, law enforcement, judiciary and bureaucracy.
Hundreds are on trial for links to the group and dozens of people, mostly pro-coup troops, were handed down sentences for the military takeover.
In almost all trials, both of troops involved in the coup attempt and those tried for FETÖ membership, most defendants claim they have never been members of the group.
In trials of putschist military officers, some even denied that they were the person seen in security camera footage presented as evidence to the court.
Keleş's notes, which investigators say were prepared after the coup attempt, show it is part of a strategy applied by group members.
One note reads, "We should never accept any accusation and flatly deny them," while another instructs fellow defendants to keep a calm posture during police interrogation and give irrelevant answers to interrogators.
"They can ask you something about A but you should speak about B in your answer. We don't need to answer their questions. Be calm and say something but never say anything against us," another note reads.
According to the notes, FETÖ also advises followers to be "self-confident" during the legal process.
"They can ask you questions and trick you into believing that they have evidence against you. Do not fall for it and ask to see the evidence," it also says.
"Himmet" or "donation," an amount of money all members of the group are obliged to pay monthly is among key evidence for association with FETÖ. Keleş instructs defendants to tell the court or interrogators that they only donated to a state-run agency which runs a charity.
For FETÖ's infiltrators in the public sector, the notes advise defendants that they should say they acted in legal framework and had no other motivation when asked about their actions that served to the interests of FETÖ.
Keleş says that group members should completely deny that they used the "program," referring to ByLock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used by FETÖ.
"You should openly say that you did not use it if they failed to catch you red-handed. It is technically difficult to prove that you are a ByLock user," a note reads.
Prosecutors say ByLock was popular among Gülenists for secret communications between 2013 and 2015, and after 2015, the terrorist group turned to Eagle IM, which offers "256-bit end-to-end AES encryption."
In December, prosecutors announced that a large number of people held for FETÖ links based on their ByLock use were not guilty as the group secretly directed unsuspecting victims to ByLock when they installed other programs.
Thus, they would hide their tracks and muddle the investigation into the messaging app.
A former military judge also instructs fellow FETÖ members to deny everything about their phone records, contents of their computer and so on.
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