Prosecutors in the capital Ankara issued arrest warrants yesterday for 18 suspects accused of being aides to Kemal Batmaz, one of the architects of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt orchestrated by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
The suspects were identified in the testimonies of those arrested in earlier operations against the terrorist group. They served as "civilian imams," prosecutors say, referring to a name given to nonmilitary handlers for the terrorist group's infiltrators in the military.
Batmaz is among 475 defendants in a coup trial where a prosecutor asked yesterday for 79 instances of life imprisonment for their roles in the coup bid. He is accused of being the "Air Forces imam" for the group.
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 Parliament further increased panic in the country. Still, a call by the country's leaders to "take to the streets to reclaim democracy" found a massive response, ultimately forcing the putschists to surrender in the face of public outrage.
Kemal Batmaz, who was working as an executive in a company affiliated with FETÖ before the coup attempt, was captured in Akıncı Air Base in Ankara on July 16, 2016, along with other "civilians" accused of coordinating the coup attempt. He has repeatedly denied the allegations against him that range from membership of a terrorist group to an attempt to overthrow the government, and even claimed it was not him in security camera footage from the airbase that shows Batmaz and others freely walking around and appearing to give orders to military officers. Akıncı Air base was the place where putschists launched their airstrikes in Ankara.
FETÖ, known for widespread infiltration in the military, law enforcement, judiciary and bureaucracy, faced an escalated crackdown following the coup attempt that killed 251 people. Tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested and dismissed from their public sector jobs, while the courts ordered the seizure of a large number of companies associated with the terrorist group. Security forces launch almost daily operations to capture the suspected FETÖ members. In a separate operation in Ankara, police caught 27 FETÖ suspects who were earlier dismissed from their jobs at the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.