Putschist officers' bizarre defense baffles plaintiffs


Two former military officers, on trial for their involvement in the July 15 coup attempt, have caused outrage as they testified in front of an Ankara court yesterday. Of the two, Hüseyin Türk, a pilot, is accused of carrying out airstrikes on Parliament while the other, Özay Yılmaz, "escorted" a handcuffed commander held by the putschists during the attempt in 2016. The coup attempt, blamed on Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), killed 249 people. Now, hundreds of military officers linked to the terrorist group are facing trial. Testifying at the Fourth High Criminal Court in the capital, Türk claimed he did not even fly on July 15, despite evidence to the contrary.

Families of the victims, also present at the court at the time of testimony, shouted, "You are lying!"

Türk earlier in his pre-trial testimony admitted that he bombed Parliament as part of "a counterterrorism operation." But yesterday he was in complete denial and claimed he was at Akıncı Air Base, used as the putschists' command center in Ankara, but did not fly a jet.

"I was supposed to fly but there was a technical issue with the plane. So, I didn't," Türk claimed as he also denied the record of his radio conversation with the air traffic control at the base where he confirms hitting Parliament and other locations.

Türk claimed that he stayed in the base and retorted to the criticism of the plaintiffs. The trial was adjourned when he verbally argued with plaintiffs and was eventually ordered to leave the courtroom.

Another pro-coup officer, Özay Yılmaz, was involved in the kidnapping of an anti-coup general but denied involvement saying he did not know that a coup was underway when he held the general hostage. Testifying in front of an Ankara court, Yılmaz said he "accompanied" Gen. Yaşar Güler, who was abducted by the putschists and denied any guilt. Yılmaz, a staff officer at the Office of Chief of General Staff, is among 221 defendants charged with carrying out the coup attempt at the headquarters of the Turkish Armed Forces. A fellow defendant had claimed that Yılmaz spoke at a meeting of pro-coup officers and openly said that they would "capture" the headquarters with the assistance of soldiers from Special Forces. Yılmaz, however, denied the claim and said he had no role in then Deputy Chief of Staff Güler's abduction.

Security camera footage revealed that Güler, who was handcuffed by Special Forces, being escorted by Yılmaz. "Why didn't you do anything to help him?" a lawyer asked Yılmaz at the hearing. He acknowledged handing Güler over to the Special Forces but claimed he did not know that a coup was underway. "They [Special Forces] were there in an anti-terror operation," he said but failed to explain why a general was handcuffed by fellow soldiers.

In most cases, coup trial defendants have resorted to what the plaintiffs' lawyers called a "selective amnesia" while some accused even claimed it was not "them" seen in the high-definition security camera footage from military bases, showing their involvement in the coup attempt, corroborating the claim that members are instructed by FETÖ to keep silent and cling to denial.

FETÖ, according to investigations, relayed messages on defense strategies to its followers, pledging that they would be "freed" soon, implying that they may make a second attempt to overthrow the government.

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