Prosecutors in the capital Ankara issued arrest warrants for 82 officers from the Turkish Air Force yesterday in an investigation into the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). All were serving soldiers and most were non-commissioned officers. Operations were underway to capture the suspects when Daily Sabah went to print.
Suspects were identified through their contact with "secret imams," a name given to FETÖ's handlers for the group's infiltrators in the military, law enforcement, judiciary etc. They allegedly used payphones and cellphones registered in the name of other people to disguise their contacts.
Operations came one day after media reports said that 16 FETÖ infiltrators in the Air Force collaborated with authorities to help catch other suspects.
The terrorist group, which is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people, is accused of employing its infiltrators from Air, Land, Naval and Gendarmerie forces of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to overthrow the government. The attempt failed due to a strong public resistance against putschists and tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested in its aftermath. Media reports say that 16 out of 72 people detained in operations against infiltration in the Air Force earlier this month, invoked the remorse law that grants them a reduced prison term in exchange of information on FETÖ. They gave the names of that "imams" that were assigned to them to police investigators, media reports said.
The Air Force was key in the coup attempt and airstrikes by putschists initially gave the impression that the coup would succeed. A large number of people were killed in airstrikes near the presidential complex in Ankara and the bombing of the Parliament further increased panic in the country. Still, a call by the country's leaders to "take to the streets to reclaim democracy" found massive response, ultimately forcing the putschists to surrender in the face of public outrage.
Kemal Batmaz, chief "imam" for FETÖ's Air Force infiltrators remains in prison. Batmaz was one of several non-military figures caught in Akıncı, an air base that FETÖ used as a launch pad for airstrikes in Ankara during the coup attempt. He was also a co-conspirator of the putsch bid along with Adil Öksüz, a fugitive FETÖ member, on behalf of Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the terrorist group.