Murat Fırat, a 41-year-old officer at the Turkish navy’s elite special forces unit, Underwater Offense (Su Altı Taarruz, or SAT), an equivalent of the US Navy SEALS, testified in court on January 7, 2020, relating accounts of the torture he was subjected to, first on a military base and then at a police station, Nordic Monitor reported.
Fırat was at the SAT command, located on İstanbul’s Keçilik Bay, on the morning of July 15, 2016, doing routine work. He was actually making preparations to welcome a US team that would be at the base the next day to start a two-week joint military exercise. Around 18:00 hours, he received an emergency deployment order from his commanding officer. He had gotten used to such calls as part of a rapid response team at the SAT command. At 23:00, three vehicles transported him and his navy colleagues to the military section of Atatürk Airport, from where they were flown on a CASA aircraft to Akıncı Air Base in Ankara. When they landed, they were briefed on their mission, which was to secure the base against a terrorist threat.
There was nothing out of the ordinary that could have raised red flags for Fırat, who had completed similar missions many times, often to respond to an emergency situation under verbal orders from commanding officers. He recalled in court how he had joined a special SAT team to evacuate some 1,200 Turks from Lebanon during the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War and how he and his team had rescued 150 African and Middle Eastern migrants in the Mediterranean when their boat was about to sink in 2003.
Moreover, he was also familiar with continuous alerts at the SAT base, which had received multiple intelligence reports from the police, the General Staff and intelligence agency MIT about possible terrorist attacks on military bases and installations in the weeks leading up to a failed coup on July 15, 2016. He had no idea he was one of many soldiers who were mobilized to make it appear that the military was carrying out a coup when in fact it was a false flag operation planned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his military and intelligence chief in order to launch a mass purge of NATO’s second largest army and staff the vacated positions with Islamists and neo-nationalists.
The terror alerts were taken seriously by all military bases and installations around the country, especially after the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacked General Staff service busses that were transporting military officers in Ankara on February 17, 2016, killing 29 people. Deadly terrorist attacks in Ankara and Istanbul by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed hundreds of people in 2015 and 2016, which raised the alert level across the country. The General Staff issued orders to all commanders to beef up security in and around bases, military housing compounds and key strategic locations.
At Akıncı Air Base, he was deployed to guard a fenced area away from the airstrip and stood guard there until morning. When the base was bombed in the morning, allegedly against the putschists on the base, he and his team members realized something was not right. They returned to the SAT base in Istanbul following fresh orders that the mission was cancelled. When Fırat arrived at the base in Istanbul on July 16, he was surprised to see retired SAT members there. He saw former captain Erme Onat, former colonel Ali Türkşen, former major Eren Gunay and retired noncommissioned officer Bulent Kuru moving around with weapons and giving orders. They had all been convicted in the past for their involvement in a neo-nationalist group that wreaked havoc in Turkey.
Retired Col. Türkşen, although he had no authority as a retired officer, was apparently in charge and giving direct orders to SAT Group Commander Col. Mustafa Turan Ecevit. Before he managed to figure out what was going on, Fırat was handcuffed and beaten in one of the rooms on the base and then taken to the main entrance. He had a gun put to his head by Ecevit, who said he would kill him right then and thereafter a false alarm was given and gunshots were heard.
“When we were at the main entrance, suddenly everyone started shooting. As the firing continued, Turan Ecevit put a gun to my head and said, ‘Don’t worry, if they’re here to pick him up, they’ll only take him dead.’ Your Honor, he took the safety off before he put the gun to my head. With the gun cocked, the trigger could go off with only 2.5 kilograms of pressure and fire the bullet. So his finger was on the trigger. I was so close to death. Then they stopped shooting because they said there was a misunderstanding,” Fırat said in recalling those horrifying minutes when he felt his life would be over. He was then forced to lie down on the hot asphalt road for two hours before the police came to pick him up. When his blindfold was taken off, he saw he was not the only one who had been detained. Maj. Murat Çetinkaya, Maj. Kürşat Göztok, Maj. Tahsin İşlekel and Petty Officer Timur Ağca were also there and looked to have been tortured as well.
When they were turned over to the police, Ecevit told the officers that Fırat had been trained in Germany in tactics to survive interrogation as part of a NATO assignment, in an apparent hint that more torture should applied on him. The police assured Ecevit, saying, “Don’t worry about it; we’ll take care of him at the police station.”
“We were handcuffed from behind in a police vehicle. The Beykoz district police department public security bureau chief Alper Korkmaz came to me in the vehicle and said: ‘We won’t hit you now. First we’ll get a report of no assault from the hospital, then we will beat you, then we’ll get a new report from the hospital so that we can document the battery because I want put the torture I’m going to do to you on the record.’ I felt like he had gotten orders to torture us, and if he somehow proved that he had, he’d get a reward,” Fırat explained.
As the police chief had said, he was first taken to a hospital to check whether he had been abused or tortured and then transported to the police station in the Beykoz district of Istanbul. At the station he was beaten with kicks and punches while on the ground and handcuffed. Then a big man from the police special forces, nicknamed Rambo, entered the station to rounds of cheers and applause. Rambo started working on him, broke his nose and ribs, inflicted a three-inch gash on his jaw and ruptured his eardrums.