Turkey’s military chief not held by force, says former rear admiral coup suspect

Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Maj. Gen. Mehmet Dişli seen together on July 16, 2016.

Former İstanbul Northern Sea Area Commander and Rear Admiral Ömer Faruk Harmancık, one of the suspects in a trial concerning a failed coup in Turkey last year, said on Wednesday that contrary to the government narrative, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was not forcibly held by putschist officers at Akıncı Airbase in Ankara on the night of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to a Cumhuriyet daily story, Harmancık, who allegedly forced Akar to sign a coup declaration, was asked how he went to Akar’s room at the base.

“I went to his room at Akıncı Airbase under the same conditions that I went to see him in his office. He was not in a threatening situation. There were no armed people around threatening him. I did not see the chief of general staff being held by force,” said

Harmancık during a hearing at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on Wednesday.

Harmancık claimed that he learnt about the arrival of the chief of general staff and the force commanders at Akıncı Airbase after finding out about the coup attempt and waited there for their orders.

Presiding judge Selfet Giray reminded Harmancık of the testimonies of Sr. Master Sgt. Mustafa Özel, who was caught trying to flee from Edirne province to Greece after the coup attempt.  Harmancık said he did not attend meetings in İstanbul’s Çengelköy district as claimed by Özel.

Özel denied the testimony and said: “I was systematically tortured for three months. I am not accepting this testimony, which I gave under torture.”

In response to Özel’s remarks, Giray said: “You were caught on May 16. You told the court that you did not want to give testimony in the presence of people with whom you were caught and that you had some important things to share. We received your testimony via the SEGBİS system [IT Voice and Image System]. You did not say in your testimony then that you were under pressure. You think you are under pressure when you are alone, but are you not under pressure here in the presence of all suspects?”

Özel said he was feeling pressure and was afraid something might happen to him because of his testimony on that day. He added that he could not testify properly then and that he would explain these things during his defense.

Former Turkish Air Forces commander and member of the Supreme Military Council Akın Öztürk, a key suspect in the coup trial, also said on Monday that soldiers behaved respectfully towards the military chief during the time he was being held by officers involved in carrying out the coup.

Security sources claimed Akar was ordered by his private secretary, Maj. Gen. Mehmet Dişli, to sign a coup declaration at gunpoint and read it out to the public. Upon his refusal to do so, a belt was tied around his neck and he was physically forced. The sources argue that force commanders were also held captive by their pro-coup secretaries and guards.

A total of 486 people accused of taking part in the coup attempt are standing trial. The suspects, who were thought to have received orders from Akıncı Airbase, were allegedly plotting to assassinate Erdoğan on the night of the coup attempt.

According to the Turkish government, Akıncı Airbase, northwest of Ankara, served as the headquarters for plotters, and the orders to bomb Parliament and overthrow Erdoğan were sent out from there.

The Turkish government and Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuse the faith-based Gülen movement of being behind the controversial coup despite the movement and US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, repeatedly denying any involvement. (turkishminute.com)

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