Footage of the putsch attempt unfolding on July 15, 2016, laid bare the determination of putschists to seize power at all costs and how they were forced to surrender. The footage, part of an expert witness's report, was presented to Istanbul's 34th High Criminal Court Wednesday where soldiers accused of taking over Istanbul's Atatürk Airport are being tried.
The 159 defendants, including 76 remanded in custody, are on trial for incidents at the city's largest airport that led to the deaths of two people confronting the putschists. The coup attempt is blamed on military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) that tried to overthrow the government ahead of a planned purge of FETÖ infiltrators in the army in 2016.
The footage from security cameras at the airport was made public for the first time and shows putschists firing upon police officers trying to stop them and soldiers surrendering to the police who confronted them in the late hours of July 15, 2016. Nearly three hours of footage, which was released by Anadolu Agency (AA), was shown in a courtroom located across the street from the massive prison complex in Silivri that houses key figures of FETÖ's coup attempt.
One bit of footage shows a group of soldiers commanded by Barbaros Akça, a colonel who was a staff officer at the Air Forces School located near the airport, on the runway. Akça, accompanied by non-commissioned Sgt. Aslan Özkan, apparently orders soldiers to shut down the roads leading to the runway. The time shows 00:56 a.m. and soldiers are seen parking military vehicles on the roads and checking the premises. Three armored vehicles arrive later, and according to the investigation, one of the occupants in the vehicles was Col. Mustafa Kol, another high-ranking figure indicted in the coup attempt's Atatürk Airport leg. Atatürk Airport, along with the main bridge connecting Istanbul's Asian and European sides, was one of the strategic locations pro-coup soldiers managed to take over. Strong public resistance aided by anti-coup police officers helped to thwart the coup attempt. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who secretly flew from southwestern Turkey where he was on vacation to Istanbul, arrived at the airport after it was taken back from the putschists. Erdoğan's call to people to "reclaim democracy" is credited with quelling the coup attempt as people across the country, unarmed and aided by undermanned police, proved to be an intimidating force for putschists.
In another video, Aslan Özkan is seen stopping a bus carrying plane passengers as it approaches the runway around 1 a.m. Passengers are ordered to get out and forced to lie down as soldiers search them. Four minutes later, the soldiers hijack the bus and leave. Other footage shows putschist soldiers searching cars throughout the night. At 1:35 a.m. a police car arrives at the spot where soldiers set up a checkpoint, and soldiers are seen surrounding the car and stealing some equipment. A few minutes later, three soldiers, including Özkan, are seen getting into a car and speeding up the runway, almost crushing a group of civilians there. Some soldiers are seen running toward the civilians and a soldier fires into the air. A video shot around 1:49 p.m., shows soldiers stepping back as people carrying Turkish flags approach them. Soldiers flee on foot, then stop and argue with the crowd before leaving the area by car.
Another bit of footage shows the air traffic control tower taken over by a group of soldiers. Maj. Yusuf Yenihayat and a number of soldiers in the tower are seen blocking the door to the tower. Around 2 a.m., special operations police who opposed the coup attempt, try to storm the tower. Yenihayat fires upon police officers for a while, as a sergeant among the putschists lays down his weapon and exits the tower to surrender. Other soldiers remain for two more hours and police officers are later seen entering the tower to accompany putschists who decided to surrender. Putschist soldiers are wearing T-shirts instead of military uniforms as they leave the tower in the company of police officers.
Apart from those moments, footage sheds light on the early hours of the takeover of the airport. A group of soldiers arrive in tanks at the main entrances of the airport around 10:40 p.m. and block the road with tanks. Later, two putschist officers argue with police officers apparently trying to convince them to surrender. Soon, citizens gather outside the airport, and putschist soldiers are seen shouting at citizens and arguing with them. Soldiers stop citizens from getting into the airport. As the number of people gathered outside increases, soldiers withdraw from their positions. At around 1:19 a.m., an anti-coup crowd tries to stop three military vehicles heading to the entrance, apparently in an attempt to leave the airport. An armored vehicle crushes a civilian car blocking the entrance.
In another video, soldiers head to the terminal, taking control of the place where a large group of passengers are stranded. After a while, passengers are seen panicking and running away for an unknown reason, while a woman carrying a child falls down. Soldiers then confront an anti-coup crowd of civilians, and citizens are seen pursuing them as soldiers try to leave.
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