Erdogan: Staged coup story was fabricated

Turkish President Erdogan says those who tried to overthrow the government fomented the idea that he had staged the coup attempt.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday strongly rejected claims that a recent coup attempt was staged.

"Unfortunately, that is only misinformation. How can you plan such a thing? How can you allow so many civilians to lose their lives? How can human conscience allow that? That is beyond possible," Erdogan said during an exclusive interview with CNN's Becky Anderson.

More than 200 people have died and around 1,500 others were wounded during Friday’s failed military coup attempt, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Monday.

Erdogan said, "Tayyip Erdogan and his friends, his colleagues would be the first ones to reject that kind of idea. We risk our lives for the people."

He said those who tried to overthrow the government fomented the idea.

"This Fetullah terrorist organisation has now received the biggest hit they ever have."

The attempted takeover is alleged to have been organised by followers of Fetullah Gulen – a US-based cleric in self-exile – who is accused of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the government through supporters within the Turkish state, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

Erdogan said he has raised the issue of Gulen’s extradition with US president Barack Obama.

"I had previously made this request to Obama, just orally. But,this week our written formal request will also be conveyed to the US and also to a number of Western countries and African countries. We will be sending those requests formally."

Asked about the possibility that Washington would refuse to extradite Gulen, Erdogan’s response suggests a similar stance going forward so long as he is the leader of Turkey.

"First, we have to submit our formal request. We will ask for extradition. If there is no positive response to that formal request, if there is ever anyone criminal in the eyes of the US and if they are going to ask for their extradition, as the president of the country I will not allow that."

US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Turkey blames for a failed coup, shown in a still image taken from video speaking to journalists at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania July 16, 2016.

"Regardless of who the US has so far requested for Turkey hand over, Ankara has complied."

Erdogan added that because there is a mutual agreement for extraditing criminals, there should be reciprocity.

"Even if he [Gulen] is a citizen of the US, the US should not keep such a terrorist."

On the Death Penalty

At pro-government rallies in Turkey this weekend following the failed coup, demands were made for the restoration of capital punishment for the coup plotters whose actions caused the loss of 208 lives and injured almost 1,500 others.

Soldiers involved in the coup attempt push each other onboard a bus to escape the mob after surrendering on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016.

On this matter, Erdogan said, "This issue now can be taken to the agenda of the parliament and it can be discussed there. We previously abolished it, but we can always go back and re-introduce it."

"There is a clear crime of treason. The request of the Turkish people can never be ignored by our government. But the leaders have to come together and discuss it. If they agree to discuss it, then as the president I will approve any decision that comes out of the parliament."

People take cover near a bridge during the attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey.

Erdogan said he was with his wife, son-in-law and grandchildren on vacation in Marmaris in southwest Turkey when the attempted putsch occurred.

"I was informed that in Istanbul and Ankara and some other places there was some kind of movement that was going on. We decided to move out," he said.

"There is also the operation in Marmaris against me and two of my close bodyguards were martyred, they were killed. If I stayed 10 or 15 minutes longer, I would have been killed or captured."

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks to media in the resort town of Marmaris, Turkey, July 15, 2016.

Erdogan said the coup-plotters had him in their sights from the time he landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

"F-16 jets began flying above the plane."

Asked if at that moment whether he thought he was no longer the president of Turkey, Erdogan said that was never a consideration.

"I the idea did not cross my mind because I was with my colleagues and we never had that concern, never had troubled thoughts."

On press freedom

Turkey has come under criticism for what some perceive as a crackdown on free press in the country.

Erdogan posed a question to those voicing those claims.

"If some people keep saying that press is not still free in Turkey, then I want to say this. There has been a coup attempt in Turkey. There are people siding with the coup plotters. There are also media outlets that have been against the coup attempt.

"So, my question is that against the media that supported the coup, will the Turkish justice judicial system not take any steps? Of course it will. Why? Because if you are going to suppress the attempt, then those who are siding with the attempt should be taken to the right place, exposed to right type of treatment because otherwise the citizens, the people, would be deceived via misinformation.

"The people itself brought me to this position. If I do not do anything they will hold me accountable when the time comes."

Current situation

Almost 9,000 officials have been suspended in Turkey after the failed coup.

The suspects include governors, civil inspectors and legal advisors.

Dozens of generals accused of plotting the coup were arrested by the court.

Retired Air Force Commander Akin Ozturk as well as 41 generals and admirals were arrested after appearing in an Ankara court.

Over 100 high-ranking Turkish Army officers were also detained earlier as part of an ongoing investigation.

All of them have been charged with treason and are testifying to prosecutors and judges. 

Prime suspect behind failed coup attempt, retired Turkish Air Forces Commander Akin Ozturk (centre) along with other arrested suspects.


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