Parliament report on 2016 coup bid unpublished over fears of compensation claims, committee vice chair confirms

Turkish authorities refrained from publishing the findings of a parliamentary inquiry committee tasked with examining a July 2016 coup attempt, following legal advice warning that the report could help members of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by Ankara of being behind the abortive putsch, in future legal claims for compensation, the then-vice chair of the committee said on Sunday, Turkish Minute reported.

During a live broadcast about the failed coup on Halk TV, journalist Barış Pehlivan from the Cumhuriyet daily asked Selçuk Özdağ, a former lawmaker and an ex-member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who is currently vice chair of the opposition Future Party (GP), citing those in the know, if the parliamentary committee’s report on the coup attempt remained unpublished due to fears of future claims of compensation by Gülen movement members.

In July 2017 the parliamentary inquiry committee led by ruling party deputies Reşat Petek and Özdağ submitted its findings to then-Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Parliament’s official website acknowledges the establishment of the committee of inquiry but says the committee has not submitted its report.

“Right before the scheduled publication [of the report], prominent legal experts visit the speaker and senior AKP officials. They [the experts] tell them, ‘Look, the allegations, facts and events documented by this report would cause you a lot of trouble in the future. An official report by the Turkish parliament could strengthen the hand of the Fethullahists [Gülenists]. It could put Turkey in a tight spot in the international arena and could lead to the [government] having to pay compensation [to Gülenists]. Let’s not publish this report.’ There is information [from those who know] suggesting that the report was not published due to these [concerns],” Pehlivan said.

“Your sources are correct,” Özdağ responded.

In 2019 in response to a written question by opposition deputy Özgür Özel, Deputy Parliament Speaker Süreyya Sadi Bilgiç said the speaker’s office had not received such a report and that an earlier one prepared during the 26th legislative session [November 2015-June 2018] was not published by the speaker’s office as it was not finalized within the session.

Ankara accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding the coup attempt. Gülen and the movement members deny any involvement.

The failed coup killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. The next morning, after announcing the coup had been suppressed, the Turkish government immediately started a wide-ranging purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other civil servants that ultimately led to the dismissal of more than 150,000 from their jobs.

On the night of the abortive putsch, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately blamed the Gülen movement for the attempt. He has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Committee could not get intel chief Fidan and Chief of General Staff Akar to testify

A draft report released in May 2017 was 630 pages long. The inquiry committee attracted widespread criticism for not hearing key figures such as then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan.

Parliamentary inquiry committee chair Petek, who spoke at a news conference held for the release of the report, said the committee has been unable to obtain any answers from Gen. Akar related to the coup attempt. Akar was taken hostage by the coup plotters on the night of July 15 and was released on July 16 when the coup attempt was suppressed.

The draft report admits that there was an intelligence failure that prevented authorities from taking measures to prevent the coup attempt, which claimed the lives of 251 people and injured a thousand others, from being staged.

Despite the apparent failure of the Turkish intelligence authorities to gather intelligence about the coup plans, no intelligence official has resigned or been fired by the government.

Many questions still persist as to what happened before and after the coup attempt on July 15.

Major O.K. said in his testimony to a court that he personally went and informed MİT at 14:30, about seven hours before the coup attempt started.

Why MİT chief Fidan informed neither President Erdoğan nor then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım during those seven hours, despite the fact that he had learned of the coup attempt at 14:30, is one of the questions being asked by many people. 

Fidan did not testify to a prosecutor or to the parliamentary inquiry committee.

It was also revealed in 2017 that Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar and MİT chief Fidan had a six-hour meeting in Ankara a day before the failed coup.

Gülen was not behind the coup attempt

A report by the European Union’s intelligence-sharing unit, INTCEN, states that Fethullah Gülen did not order the failed coup in Turkey.

The document says a post-coup purge of supposed Gülen supporters led by Erdoğan was designed to deepen his grip on power.

The report by INTCEN concluded that the coup was mounted by a range of opponents to Erdoğan and his ruling AKP.

“The European intelligence contradicts the Turkish government’s claim that Fethullah Gülen, an exiled cleric, was behind the plot to overthrow the Turkish government.”

In a blow to Turkey’s claims that Gülen masterminded the coup, the European intelligence report noted that Gülen followers were weak in the Turkish army, which until last July remained a bastion of secularism.

“It is unlikely Gülen really had the abilities and capacities to take such steps. There is no evidence that the army, [which] considers itself as the guardian of Turkey as a secular state, and the Gülenists were willing to co-operate with each other to oust Erdoğan. The Gülen movement is very disconnected and somewhat distant from the secular opposition and Turkish army,” the report said.

According to the EU intelligence agencies, the military coup began after reports of a “far-reaching purge” started to circulate in the days running up to the attempted seizure of power on July 15. The expected purge drew in secular opponents of Erdoğan and galvanized sections of the military opposed to Erdoğan’s policies of intervention in Syria and against the Kurds.

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