Defendants in Turkey coup case give varied testimony

ANKARA

The trial of the main suspects in last year's attempted coup has heard a varied range of defense statements from those accused of orchestrating the takeover.

The case involves 486 defendants being tried at the in 4th High Penal Court in Sincan on the outskirts of capital Ankara. Seven are being tried in absentia.

They are all accused of having been present at the Akinci air base to the north of the city on the night of July 15 last year and face charges including membership of a terrorist organization, attempting to assassinate the president and trying to overthrow parliament.

The base is said to have been the headquarters of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) plotters once the putsch was put into action.

Fighters taking off from Akinci bombed several key locations in Ankara on the night of the coup attempt, including parliament.

Officers opposed to the coup were also held hostage at the base.

Kemal Batmaz, a civilian accused of being one of the coup leaders, was arrested at the base on the morning of July 16.

He told the court he was in the area to inspect land he was considering buying.

Batmaz, the former general manager of the Kaynak paper company, said he was accompanied by Harun Binis, said to be another civilian coup plotter.

According to Batmaz, the pair met at a restaurant on July 16 before travelling by taxi to view the land.

Visits

Nurettin Oruc, another civilian suspect, said he went to the district then known of Kazan, which is home to the air base, to film a documentary on animal husbandry.

Yet another civilian, Hakan Cicek said he visited Kazan, which has since been renamed Karamankazan, at the invitation of a Col. Ahmet Ozcetin to discuss recruiting students to the college he ran.

Col. Muzaffer Duzenli said he went to the base for a dinner.

The retired head of Turkey's air force, Gen. Akin Ozturk, said he had gone to the base to visit his grandchildren, who lived on the base with his daughter and her husband.

He said he only learned of the coup attempt after leaving the base but then returned, where he met the Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who had been taken prisoner by pro-coup troops.

Maj. Gen. Kubilay Selcuk, the former commander of the Cigli 2nd Main Jet Base, said he arrived at the base for a meeting while Col. Murat Kocyigit, the former head of the Gendarmerie Intelligence School, also said he had travelled to the base for a meeting.

When asked how nobody knew about the meetings, both defendants said they had intended their visits to be a surprise.

Col. Mustafa Baris Avialan, who led the General Staff's project department at the time, said he had been called to the base by a telephone call from an unnamed soldier who told him of a meeting on a probable terror attack.

He said the caller told him Akar would also be present.

U.S.-based FETO leader Fetullah Gulen is one of those being tried in absentia, as is Adil Oksuz, a theology professor said to have led the coup within Turkey.

Oksuz was arrested on the morning of July 16 near Akinci but was subsequently released and has since disappeared.

Source: Anadolu Agency