The officers and team who claimed to have delayed a helicopter takeoff for an operation against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a July 15 coup attempt were reinstated on Wednesday along with 412 others from various ministries and public institutions, the t24 news website reported.
According to the report the pilots, Lt. Col. Yarbay Bahattin Akgün and Lt. Col. Serkan Çoban, who said they delayed the takeoff of a helicopter for the operation, and their co-pilot Hacı İbrahim Çalışkan and technician Yasin Sağkol were reinstated to their posts.
Brig. Gen. Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, the commander of the team that targeted President Erdoğan’s hotel in Marmaris on the night of a July 15 failed coup, said in court last month that they received an order from the office of the Chief of General Staff but were intentionally deceived and kept waiting for four hours.
“The order came from Semih Terzi [commander of the special forces who was killed on the night of the attempted coup]. He said the Turkish Armed Forces had taken over control of the country. He said the order was from the Chief of General Staff’s office. I have no links to FETÖ [a derogatory term for the Gülen movement]. We were sent into a trap. Who kept us waiting for four hours before taking off?” Sönmezateş said during his defense at the Muğla 2nd High Criminal Court.
“While the whole world knew the president had gone to İstanbul, we were sent there, into a trap. … I am trying to find an answer to the question of ‘Who deceived us and kept us waiting for four hours?’”
Underlining that he had acted thinking it was a coup on the orders of the entire Turkish military, Sönmezateş also said the order was not to assassinate but to take President Erdoğan to Ankara.
Maj. Şükrü Seymen, who was commander of the team, also said he acted in accordance with the orders.
A 37-strong team of special forces members that attacked Erdoğan’s hotel on July 15 killed two policemen. Six aggravated life sentences were demanded for each of the 47 suspects.
Erdoğan called the botched coup a great gift of God as he immediately put the blame on Fethullah Gülen and the movement he inspired.
Contrary to accusations made by Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded last week that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15.
The committee concluded that “Given the brutality of the events of 15 July, the severity of the charges made against the Gülenists, and the scale of the purges of perceived Gülenists that has been justified on this basis, there is a relative lack of hard, publicly–available evidence to prove that the Gülenists as an organisation were responsible for the coup attempt in Turkey. While there is evidence to indicate that some individual Gülenists were involved, it is mostly anecdotal or circumstantial, sometimes premised on information from confessions or informants, and is—so far—inconclusive in relation to the organisation as a whole or its leadership.”
The UK Parliament statement came a week after Germany rejected Erdoğan and the Turkish government’s accusations against the Gülen movement about July 15.
Last week the head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind a failed coup attempt on July 15.
Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the failed coup attempt in Turkey.
In January, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge.
Despite Gülen and the movement having denied the accusation and calling for an international investigation, the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connections to the Gülen movement since a July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10.
As of March 23, 94,982 people were being held without charge, with an additional 47,128 in pre-trial detention due to their alleged links to the movement. A total of 7,317 academics were purged as well as 4,272 judges and prosecutors who were dismissed due to alleged involvement in the coup attempt.