Major O.K., who while serving at Army Aviation Command visited the intelligence agency in the afternoon of 15 July and passed on the intelligence that Hakan Fidan was to be kidnapped, has become untouchable. O.K., who was expelled under a state of emergency decree with the force of law, was subsequently restored to his post and later transferred to the intelligence agency, has made no statement in any of the trials connected with the coup. Prosecutor Alpaslan Karabay, who is conducting the investigation into the Army Aviation Command, applied to the intelligence agency for permission to take a statement from O.K. whom he wished to hear as a witness, but obtained no reply. With it proving impossible for the major’s statement to be taken, such questions remain unanswered as how the tip-off was given to the intelligence agency, what its contents were and why prior precautions were not taken. Ankara Republic Prosecutor Alpaslan Karabay completed his investigation last week into Army Aviation Command, which participated in the 15 July coup attempt carried out by the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation and from which the armed helicopters took off that targeted people resisting the coup, and sent the indictment to the court. There are 155 suspects in the indictment, including Army Aviation Academy Commander Brigadier General Ünsal Coşkun.
Additionally, 30 relatives of 28 citizens who lost their lives during the attempted coup together with 276 people who were injured have been included in the indictment as intervening parties. Three intelligence agency staff members who were injured in the attack staged by helicopter on the intelligence agency’s campus in Yenimahalle sub-province are also included as intervening parties. The three intelligence agency members are given the pseudonyms of ‘T-02735’, ‘M-11125’ and ‘M- 11238’ in the indictment to conceal their identities. The 2,489-page indictment includes everybody who was involved in the incident at Army Aviation Command, but only the name of Major O.K., who went to the intelligence agency, is absent as a party. However, Major O.K. is the most important witness of the 15 July coup attempt and events at the Army Aviation Academy. Nevertheless, it appears from the indictment that the major was not approached for a statement as either a witness or intervening party or else as a suspect. There is a striking absence of sections devoted to O.K. in witness and suspect statements, too.
Çolak speaks about that tip-off
As to the nature of the tip-off given by the pilot major to the intelligence agency, this can only be gleaned from the statements taken from Land Forces Commander Army General Salih Zeki Çolak and Deputy Chief of the General Staff at the time, Army General Yaşar Güler, as witnesses. According to Çolak’s statement, in which he speaks about the information emanating from the intelligence agency, on Thursday 14 July 2016 a pilot major at Army Aviation Command (Deniz Aldemir) called another pilot major (the informant O.K.), who was on leave away from Ankara, and said that, since CH-47 CHINOOK helicopters would perform exhibition flights due to acceptance ceremony preparations, he needed to be at Army Aviation Command on Friday 15 July. At this, Major O.K. returned to Ankara and the next day, i.e. Friday, came and saw Major Deniz Aldemir. Aldemir told Major O.K., ‘Two Sikorsky and one Cougar helicopters will make unauthorised flights this evening as of 19.00 hours. The flights will continue until the late hours. Meanwhile, intelligence agency undersecretary Hakan Fidan will be taken.’ At this, O.K. left the unit on the pretext of being tired and needing a shower. He went to the intelligence agency headquarters in Yenimahalle and passed on information to the appropriate people. The intelligence agency passed on the tip-off and the names of the two majors to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff. The informant in question confessed that he was also a Gulenist while passing on the information to the intelligence agency.
The intelligence agency took its time
From the account given in the Army Aviation indictment, the major made his tip-off to the intelligence agency ‘in the afternoon hours.’ Intelligence agency undersecretary Hakan Fidan, however, only telephoned Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Army General Yaşar Güler, at 16.16 hours to inform him. An intelligence agency deputy undersecretary came to the General Staff headquarters at 17.32 and informed Yaşar Güler. At 18.30, Hulusi Akar ordered all aircraft to be grounded. It was not until 19.05 that this order by Akar was conveyed by the Armed Forces Operational Centre to the Air Force Operational Centre. That is, a 35-minute delay was incurred. In response to Akar’s order, Land Forces Commander Salih Zeki Çolak left General Staff and entered Air Force Command at 18.36. Çolak, inquiring here as to whether any aircraft were flying, checked that day’s flight plans and repeated the flight ban order. In suspect Army Pilot Deniz Aldemir’s prosecution interrogation, there was no mention of O.K. However, Aldemir’s seven page-petition that he wrote by hand on 23 July 2016 while under arrest has been included in the indictment. In the petition, Aldemir, who confesses to being a Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation member, described how O.K. made excuses and did not wish to fly despite all of his commanders’ insistence.
First expulsion and then the intelligence agency
The major was expelled from the Turkish Armed Forces under a decree with the force of law issued within the state of emergency that was declared following the July coup attempt. However, according to information received, the major, who was readmitted to the army under another decree with the force of law that was issued, became an intelligence agency staff member for ‘protective’ and ‘reward’ purposes. Prosecutor Alpaslan Karabay, who drafted the Army Aviation Command indictment, wished to obtain the major’s statement in the course of the investigation. Because the major was now on the staff of the intelligence agency, permission had to be sought from Yenimahalle. The word in judicial corridors has it that the public prosecution sought the intervention of the Ministry of Justice before yet having drafted an official letter and tested the waters at the intelligence agency. But, no positive or negative reply was forthcoming from either the Ministry of Justice or the intelligence agency until the investigation was completed. At this, the prosecutor sent the indictment to the court without taking the major’s statement as a witness.
The questions awaiting answer
The failure for Army Pilot Major O.K.’s statement to be taken has left critical questions unanswered about the 15 July coup attempt. From the account given in the Army Aviation indictment, the major made his tip-off to the intelligence agency ‘in the afternoon hours.’ Yaşar Güler, for his part, has recounted in the statement he gave as a witness that the intelligence agency undersecretary had told him that the time he arrived was ‘approaching noon.’ President Tayyip Erdoğan, on the other hand, spoke in the statement he made at Atatürk Airport on the evening the coup attempt took place of ‘a stirring experienced in the afternoon hours’ in the Turkish Armed Forces. Had the informant been heard as a witness, answers could have been found to the following questions:
-Did Major O.K. have advance knowledge of the coup? Why did the major only go to the intelligence agency and not the police or public prosecution?
-Why did the intelligence agency undersecretary notify the Chief of Staff at 16.15 of the tip-off it had received in the afternoon.
-Did the informant major only tell the intelligence agency that Hakan Fidan was to be taken, or did he also make statements about the coup attempt?
-What kind of steps did the intelligence agency take apart from informing the Chief of Staff to resolve the event and take precautions?
-Did the major remain at the intelligence agency following the tip-off, or did he return to his unit?
-Is the major, said in the indictment to be a Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation member, currently employed in a critical position at the intelligence agency?
-Why did Hakan Fidan not notify the president and prime-minister at the same time of the information he had received in the afternoon?
The replies to these questions also remain elusive as it has proven impossible for a statement to be taken from intelligence agency undersecretary Hakan Fidan.
Application to Germany
Germany’s Bild newspaper has alleged that two Turkish generals applied for asylum in Germany the evening before last. The newspaper reports claims that the two top-ranking generals who applied for political asylum at Frankfurt Airport were involved in the 15 July coup attempt. Bild newspaper states in its report on this story that the two generals will be taken to a camp in the town of Giessen in the state of Hessen after the preliminary examination of their asylum applications has been completed. The recent granting by Germany of the right of asylum to a portion of those Turkish officers who applied for asylum following the coup attempt has met with a harsh response from Turkey. Turkey denied a request by German parliamentarians who wished to visit the roughly 260 German military staff at İncirlik Air Base.