Nearly five months later, coup attempt in Turkey still covered by big questions

It’s about 2 p.m. in July 15: An air force major, who is known by his initials as H.A., exits the military headquarters in Ankara. He is in a hurry, and very concerned. Stopping a taxi, he asks the driver to drive to the district of Yenimahalle. He doesn’t know the exacts address. ‘Take me to the secret service center, to MIT bulding’ he says. The driver is calm. ‘I know where, right away sir’ he responds.

At 2.45 p.m. the major H.A. is inside the secret service headquarters, meeting a top official. He explains that he had some some intel about an uprising in the military that day and – according to one version of the story – adds that the head of the secret service, Hakan Fidan, would be kidnapped or assassinated. He is shortly after taken for another debrief by a superiour MIT officer and is found credible.

This meeting sets to motion series of meetings in the Turkish capital, some eight hours before the coup attempt that has shattered Turkey up to this day, with a huge impact.

These details emerged in a newly published book, titled ’24 Saat’ (24 Hours), by our colleague with CNNTürk, Hande Fırat, whose FaceTime interview with President Erdoğan is widely believed to have led to the failure of the putschists that night.

By and large, Fırat’s book is an eyewitness account of the intense hours, including those of the other witnesses, including also some data. Its value lies in the fact that it is first of its kind shedding some light on the course of events.

coup2

There is nothing odd about the fact that almost no books from independent observers were published in Turkey, although nearly five months passed since then. Unless one sticks to the official narrative or sheer propaganda by the AKP, author of any work which critically scrutinizes the deep background of the coup attempt, risks being declared as ‘siding with the terrorists’, branded by Erdoğan, as FETÖ (Fethullahist Terror Organisation).

Paradoxically, perhaps, Fırat’s book helps raise new questions and make the existing ones even more dense.

Who is major H.A.?

This remained a mystery until an AKP deputy, Selçuk Özdağ, who is also a member of the so-called ‘Coup Inquiry Commission’ of Turkish Parliament, revealed recently that not only the major but also a foot soldier had acted as an informant that afternoon about the uprising. Then, Özdağ told something that sounded bizarre, that both of them were since then kept in police custody. ‘For their own safety’ he added.

Logically, these two army members would have been declared heroes.

Instead, they spend their days behind bars in the unknown.

One wonders, really why.

People react near a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara

Almost five months after the coup attempt, that cost 246 citizens’ lives, for many Turkish journalists to get to the truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But there are a handful of us who are determined to put bits and pieces together, no matter how long it takes. We know that the truth has a habit of winning at the end.

There are many bits and pieces now, and they don’t really add up.

One detail comes from the testimony of Colonel Davut Ala to the ‘Coup Commission’. Ala was the commander of a military barrack in Istanbul. He testified that at 5.04 pm he receiced an SMS that was sent en masse to key officers in Istanbul area. The message lined up at least ten large districts and all land and sea public lines and said that alarm on ‘acts of terror’ was issued for three days, from July 15 through the end of July 17.

Ala found it odd. ‘Normally such an alarm would mention one area and one day, not full three days’ he testified. ‘It was clear there was a preparation for uprising.’

Nobody asked if he had informed his superiors.

What happened following the hasty visit by the major H.A. to MIT makes the plot even thicker.

At 4.20 pm, Hakan Fidan, secret service czar, has a telephone call with the Deputy Chief of Staff. At 4.30, he talks, over the phone again, with the top general of Turkish Army, Hulusi Akar. Fidan sends his deputy to the army headquarters at 6 pm. And, he goes to visit Akar at 6.30 pm.

What happened between 6.30 pm and 10 pm – when the coup attempt started – is more or less blank. What did Fidan and Akar talk about? Some reports say that Fidan briefed the general about suspicions on an assassination attempt to him from within the military. He mentions Akıncı Air Base – the epicenter of putchists – and – the narrative goes – Akar, more or less shrugging, orders his Land Forces Commander ‘to go and have a look what’s going on there’. The commander leaves soon after, only to be manhanded and kidnapped at the base.

Meanwhile, Fidan – the alleged target of assassination rumours – walks out of the headquarters, to remain incommunicado until late after the coup attempt starts. (A news report said he had gone to a birthday party.) We know also, that he reports to neither Erdoğan, nor Prime Minister Yıldırım that day. The latter reproached him afterwards for his neglect to do.

Another baffling detail is that Akar continues to sit at his office, issues a flight ban of the military aircraft form bases, but fails to alarm the entire top echelon of the army nationwide. He remains bizarrely unalarmed even if he is not contacted back by his Land Forces Commander he sent to ‘check’ the military air base.

He fails also – we may conclude at this point – to interpret such a major threat to head of secret service as a top national security matter, including a coup as a probability.

Then, he is himself taken hostage at about 8.30 pm by putschist units in his office. Two top air force generals are rounded up at a wedding in Istanbul at around 11 pm, seemingly uninformed about the havoc.

It is as if Akar had lost his judgment in alarming them- unless, of course, there is some other motive.

Did Erdoğan and the army know something was ‘cooking’? In hindsight, a colleague, Fehmi Koru, drew a week ago attention to two consecutive columns written by a staunchly pro-government and ‘deeply informed’ columnist, Fuat Uğur, in April 2 and 21.

In these columns published by Türkiye daily, Uğur claimed the prominent Gülenist figures had gathered in Ankara in early spring, and started plotting a coup with some officers, who were blackmailed by Gülenists to do as they wanted, he argued. Then, he concluded with a warning to ‘Gülenist officers’: ‘The state and the top command knows everything you do, and is prepared for the crime that you intend to commit.’

In a most recent indictment against some 60 officers, who in the night of the coup were part of attacking Istanbul’s eastern airport, Sabiha Gökçen, the prosecutor argues that the putchists in greater Istanbul area had secretly met at a major military barracks between July 12 through the early morning of July 14 – in a total of 54 hours! Can there be any chance at all that the top command of the army had not known about meetings that last uninterruptibly for so long? Has nobody suspected anything subversive about it all?

Then comes the ‘coup de grace’ type of statement at a parliamentary debate, by Minister of Defence, Fikri some days ago. Pointing out that around 150 generals are in jail with alleged links to the coup attempt, Işık said: ‘How come, that 150 generals attempt a coup and the headquarters do not know of it? We can not just pull it off by blaming a single chief of staff…’ (One wonders, also, how come NATO intelligence was out of the loop in such clandestine activity, if it really was..)

trio

Almost five months having passed, the ‘Coup Inquiry Commission’ has systematically rejected the opposition demands that the three key figures of July 15, President Erdoğan, Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and the MIT Chief, Hakan Fidan are called to testify. It has been the chairman and members of the commission, who are members of the AKP, who keep voting against it.

It emerges as clear that both Akar and Fidan failed to fulfill their duties that day, responsible for oversight in not alarming the state apparatus; yet, they are still in duty, oddly. Then, how come all the data surfacing strongly imply a ‘crime foretold’, keeping the chain of events enveloped in a fog in July 15, is even a bigger question.

 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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