"I waited 18 months for this day," Safiye Bayat said when she stood up on the dock to question Ahmet Taştan, a former major. Bayat is the woman whose iconic image while confronting putschists on an Istanbul bridge is now one of the symbols of the resistance to the 2016 coup bid. Taştan was the officer who shoved and pushed her and fired his gun right next to her ear when Bayat stood her ground. Taştan and other soldiers accompanying him eventually shot 34 people gathered on the Bosporus Bridge on July 15, 2016.
Bayat was among the plaintiffs at a courtroom in Istanbul's Silivri district, located near the prison where 135 defendants are being held, and it was her turn yesterday to cross-examine Taştan in the trial that started last year. Blamed on infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in the military, the coup attempt killed 249 people, from those who confronted unarmed soldiers, to police and military officers combatting them. The bridge, where Bayat was harassed and 34 people, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's close friend Erol Olçok and his teenage son, were killed, has been renamed to the July 15 Martyrs Bridge.
"He dodged questions during his defense for six hours but did not answer accusations," Bayat told the court, before asking Taştan who fired on civilians on the bridge. Taştan said he did not want to answer the question. "Why did you push me around, why did you shove me?" Bayat then asked the pro-coup officer. In response, the defendant said, "No such thing happened." Footage from a security camera and accounts of eyewitnesses show the moments Taştan pushes Bayat and proceedes to fire his gun. "Thank God, we all know you are lying," Bayat said. "You told the soldiers around you that you were ‘born for this day' but you told the court you did not harm anyone," Bayat then told Taştan.
The defendant then proceeded to reply to every question the plaintiff asked by saying he either did not remember or claimed "it never happened." "You wrung my wrist to grab my cellphone. My left wrist still hurts. Do you remember that moment?" Bayat calmly asked, but Taştan again denied it, saying "you are mistaken, it did not happen."
Conscripts who were under the command of Taştan on the bridge during the coup bid also cross-examined him but Taştan said he did not "remember" anything about that night, drawing a reaction from the audience in the courtroom. Most defendants in the coup trials resort to what the plaintiffs' lawyers say is "selective amnesia" and some among the accused even claim it was not "him" seen in the high-definition security camera footage collected from military bases showing their involvement in the attempt, corroborating the claim that members are instructed by FETÖ to keep their silence and cling to denial during such trials. FETÖ, according to investigations, relayed messages on defense strategies to its followers, pledging that they would be "freed" soon, implying they would make a second attempt to overthrow the government.
With Taştan's cross-examination finished and all defendants having testified, the prosecutor is now expected to present his final opinion on the case. All defendants face multiple life sentences for the killings and involvement in the coup attempt.