Abdulillah Sarıtaş, a former conscript in the Turkish military who was convicted of involvement in a July 2016 coup attempt, said in a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu that he was a victim of great injustice.
In the letter, which was published by the Bold Medya news website, Sarıtaş said he was a former shepherd from the eastern Turkish province of Erzurum who had started his compulsory military service only 19 days before the failed coup on July 15, 2016.
On the night of the coup attempt he was ordered to go to the Bosporus Bridge, together with other soldiers, without knowing why. After the attempt was suppressed Sarıtaş survived an attack on the soldiers by a mob on the bridge.
He was later arrested, tried and sentenced to 17 years, six months in prison for aiding and abetting the coup. Sarıtaş is currently in İstanbul’s Silivri Prison.
In his letter he said he was only a private and was obliged to follow orders. “I am a shepherd,” said Sarıtaş. “I am not a terrorist, and I never hurt anyone. Despite this, I have been convicted of taking part in a coup attempt.”
According to Sarıtaş he was mistreated when he was first detained. “They kept me in detention for four days, with barely anything to eat or drink. I wasn’t allowed to see my lawyer, and when I appeared in court my family, which was waiting to see me, was attacked by a mob,” he said.
Sarıtaş said his family could not visit him in prison and that prison administration did not allow him to video-call them although other inmates were granted this privilege.
In a speech in parliament Gergerlioğlu said it had been very hard to read the letter. “A young shepherd who has seen more sheep than people in his life is accused of allegedly aiding and abetting the coup. Did this young shepherd violate the constitutional order and stage a coup? It is hard to believe this injustice was committed,” he said.
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Sarıtaş’s parents, who live in eastern Erzurum province, said their son had only been in Istanbul for his compulsory military service. “It is hard to believe the things that have happened to him. We wish he had never left home,” they said.
Turkey experienced a controversial military coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 which, according to many, was a false flag aimed at entrenching President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.
The abortive putsch killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. The next morning, after announcing that the coup had been put down, the Turkish government immediately started a huge purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other government officials, which ultimately led to the summary dismissal of more than 130,000 public servants from their jobs.
Since the failed coup, 29,444 members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been summarily discharged from the service. A number of privates and military cadets, some as young as 17, were also tried in the coup cases and given life sentences.
Most of the soldiers were made to believe they were taking part in an operation against an anticipated terror attack or participating in a counterterrorism drill.