Former Turkish Air Force Chief Akin Ozturk may have “confessed” alleged involvement in last week’s failed coup attempt earlier in the day on Monday, but he had a very different account to share later in the day when he made his statement to prosecutors.
Turkey’s former military attache to Israel insisted that he was “not the person who planned or led the coup,” according to a report by the BBC. The state-run Anadolu news agency earlier had quoted him as telling his interrogators that he had “acted with the intention to stage a coup.”
Ozturk served as Turkey’s military liaison to Jerusalem from 1996 to 1998. He and 26 senior officers were charged with treason and remanded in custody by a Turkish court Monday, the Anadolu news agency reported, though he denied involvement.
“I don’t know who planned or directed it,” he reportedly told prosecutors before appearing in court in Ankara, adding that perhaps the Gulen movement had a hand in it.
“But I cannot tell who within the armed forces organized and carried it out. I have no information. I have fought against this structure,” he said, challenging his accusers to produce evidence proving his involvement. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for reinstatement of the country’s death penalty, ostensibly in response to the “demands of the public” — but as he openly acknowledged at a public rally, also due to his own desires to see the return of capital punishment.
“Your request can never be rejected by our government,” Erdogan told the thousands of people gathered at a massive rally over the weekend. “But of course it will take a parliamentary decision for that to take action in the form of a constitutional measure so leaders will have to get together and discuss it,” he told CNN subsequently in an exclusive interview. “If they accept to discuss it, then I as president will approve any decision that comes out of the parliament,” he added.
Probably the first candidate for death row would be Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, if the United States accedes to Erdogan’s demand to extradite him to Turkey, although if Ankara approves the death penalty, its application for membership to the European Union will be denied with finality, according to a statement on Monday by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Erdogan blamed the failed coup on the U.S.-based Islamic cleric and has said he will measure the quality of America’s alliance with Turkey by its response to the request. Turkish officials have said Gulen formed a “parallel structure” in Turkey to overthrow the government.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded that he would not stand in the way of the extradition, if Turkey can provide concrete evidence of Gulen’s role in the attempted coup. “There must be a legal basis for such a move,” Kerry said.
During the attempted coup military forces shut down national access to social media, and sealed off the two bridges in Istanbul that link the European and Asian continents over the Bosphorus on Friday. They also shut down Istanbul’s main airport, and sent tanks to the parliament building in Ankara.
So far more than 200 people have died in the unrest that gripped the country during the attempt to overthrow the Erdogan government — and in the shock waves that continue in its aftermath. The deputy mayor of Istanbul remains in critical condition after an assassination attempt Monday in the city’s Sisli district. An unknown attacker shot the deputy mayor in the head during the day, but it was not clear whether the attack was linked to the failed coup attempt.
Hana Levi Julian