The men behind the 2016 Turkish coup attempt, in their own words

The following excerpts are taken from an indictment submitted to Ankara's Aggravated Felony Court on March 8, 2017. They are court testimonies of those accused of involvement in the failed coup of July 15, 2016.

Photo by: Getty Images/Adem Altan
Photo by: Getty Images/Adem Altan

Members of the Turkish special forces stand guard by an armed vehicle in front of the Justice Palace in Ankara. The judiciary has been tasked with ascertaining which members of the military were involved in the coup.

Updated Jul 14, 2017

The accused: Flight Lieutenant M. M.

[This defendant] was charged with dropping two MK-82 bombs near Turkey's Presidential Complex, while piloting an F-16 with tail number 93-0671. That act left 15 people dead and 7 others injured while damaging the properties of two others (Indictment, p.276).  

"Various people including a person named M. were teaching us lessons. […] I wanted to enter the air force academy. M. wanted everybody in the group to join the air force academy. They were teaching us that soldiers should be people who pray and fast. If I do not it remember incorrectly, I entered the university entrance exam in 2005 and I received a score of 334. Based on my own desire and with M.’s guidance, I applied for all the military schools that I could and attended all the interviews. […]

"[Once we got our appointments] we allocated 15 percent of our salaries to himmet [the euphemistic destination of all FETO donations]. The Cemaat [congregation] started to talk about AK Party more often after December 17th. […].

"Later, we took the academy exams. There we met M. A. whose code name was Mahmut. Mahmut began approaching us with another brother whose name I did not know; he made us swear not to tell anyone and told us that he would give us an sd card and we should study that. A. and I studied it.

"The exam questions were in the document. The questions we studied were the same questions as in the exam. If I do not remember incorrectly, I received a score of 88 or 90. They had asked me to receive a score of around 88 or 90, not to solve every question correctly.

"So we managed this by doing 10 or 12 questions wrong. In the written exam, we wrote some parts wrongly. I felt bothered by this. When I asked them why they gave us the questions, they said 'your cause is sacred and one of you should be there.'" (Indictment, pp. 1233-34.)

"A day before the coup, […] Major C. left a note to see us and M. Ç. K. […] The three of us went to M. F. C.’s home at 00:00 on Thursday. He told us: 'There is going to be an extraordinary mobility on base. The base will be crowded and it will be the main control centre. There will be troops coming from other military bases. Would you like to join this? You have been trained for this so far. You will return the favour we have done for you. I have been waiting for these war-like days. We have to do this for our country. There are five other people who know about this and today you have learned about it too. The base commander does not know about it, either.' 

"I understood that major M. F. C. was given the information that we used to receive at FETO congregation houses. He told us: 'You and I have children. Do sacrifice them for the movement.” I came to understand that Major C. was also a member of the FETO congregation after he called us at midnight and made this speech. For the speech was based on feelings of belonging and trust.

"Nobody in the FETO congregation accepts that he is a member. However, we think about this possibility for people who do not drink alcohol and do not sexually explicit language. […] I understood that Major C. was telling us that the FETO congregation contributed to the correction of the moral structure of the military. Lastly, he said: “Be ready at the 141st fleet at around 17:00 tomorrow. If you do not have your personal weapons with you, bring them too.'" (Indictment p. 742.)

"We gathered at the briefing hall. […] H. H. B. talked. He said: 'They have a list of all our names. We are all on the list. Some generals were taken. One by one it will come to us. We need to do this today. We need to take action before them.'

"What I understood from this speech was that the Hizmet [Service] movement was being targeted by the government. We would be fired from the army and our friends from the FETO congregation were trying to resist this and I was called there because I was a member of the FETÖ congregation member like the other people there. Then, Lieutenant Colonel B. Said: 'I have a list of coordinates, they will be our targets.

"These coordinates should be turned into coordinates that aviators can use.' He asked who had the lowest ranking and I said it was me." (Indictment, p. 1129).

"[…] I dove and dropped one MK 82 on the crossroads. Then I took off again. This time, I dove and dropped [another bomb] close to the mosque in the Presidential Complex. At that time, I was aware that as the Hizmet [Service] movement we were executing a coup. I deliberately dropped [the bombs]." (Indictment, p. 1238)

The accused: Staff Captain M. M. K.

"The time that I met the FETO congregation almost corresponds to the year 1996 when I was a third-year student at middle school. At that time, cram schools used to hold an exam to attract students and provide scholarships to successful students. I took almost all the exams of the cram schools in Ankara.

"I might have attracted attention due to these exams that I took. Even though my grades were always high, they offered to give lessons to me. I entered the air force academy in 2001. In that period, I met some people from time to time. Those people sometimes had religious conversations. I met with my wife in 2010 thanks to a brother named Omer from the FETO congregation. I married my wife in 2010." (Indictment, pp. 941-943)

"After receiving the instructions of A. I from the 143rd squadron through the phone, I delivered them to the aviators [pilots]. A. T. took over this task from me late that night. […] There were people who managed and guided the movement at the 143rd squadron. At the 141st squadron, T. and I transmitted the instructions coming from the management. I think H. E., A. O. and M. A. were among those who were managing [the operation]. H. K. was in the tower. It is my guess that the managers at the 143rd squadron might have been the imams of the FETO terror Organisation." (Indictment, p. 551)

"I have been in contact with the FETO congregation since 1996. However, I regret this so much. May God’s damnation be upon them. After these incidents on July 15, 2016, I came to understand how dangerous and sneaky the FETO terrorist Organisation was. […] I began to suspect that there might be a coup going on when the hostages were brought in. I understood that it was a coup at 01:00 am on July 16, 2016 when bombs were dropped. After this time, I continued to follow the orders that I received. I knew that criminal orders should not be followed.

"However, I had already taken a path so I followed the path. I did not have the chance to go back since there were armed commandoes at the point where I was located. I had had contact with the FETO terrorist Organisation until July 15, 2016 — the time when these incidents happened. However, these incidents showed me that I was on the wrong path. After this, I certainly do not want to be among them. I regret what I have done and I’m willing to accept the punishment." (Indictment, pp. 946-47.)

The accused: Lieutenant U. H. H. from the Akıncı Fourth Main Jet Fighter Command

In the deposition that he made to the prosecutors, the accused Lieutenant U. H. H. talked about how he became a member of FETÖ. He said that when he was in seventh grade, he attended a cram school named Yenirenk Dershanesi which belonged to the Organisation. H. said that he was visiting some FETO houses and brothers were giving lessons to him. […]

"We only studied together for two or three months. Then they asked us if we knew Fethullah Gulen. When I said I did not know him, they gave us books about him. They made us watch his videos. […] They also earned the trust of my parents by talking about religious values. They told me that they wanted me to attend a military school. I was opposed to this. I told them I wouldn’t go to a military school but they convinced me saying that ‘there is a need for faithful people who love their country and nation.’

"Likewise, my parents were convinced too. I was successful at the military high school exams in June 2005. After I won the written exam, brothers who stayed in the same house started to give me more information about the interview. They told me how I needed to answer the interview questions since they had archived the questions of the previous interviews."

H. further said that he had been in contact with people from FETO during his high school and university years. He stayed at FETO houses, read books, and listened to the sermons of Fethullah Gulen. H. stated that he continued to stay with FETO people after he graduated and gave 15 percent of his salary to himmet. He said that they did not bring books after the 17-25 December [2013] operations and instead watched videos on encrypted CDs. H. said that on the day of the coup attempt, H. K. had told them there would be a confidential operation against terrorists; they would be given various tasks and they should follow the orders coming from their commanders. (Indictment, p. 316)

H. K. said: "M. K. told us that today is a historic day, we have been waiting for this day to come. Today is the day of obedience. Even soldiers might stand and confront you. When I say shoot them down, you will shoot them down." (Indictment, p. 951.)

The accused: Pilot Lieutenant U. B. from the Akinci Fourth Main Jet Fighter Command

In his testimony, U. B. declared that in his high school and university years he was seeing people linked with Fethullah Gulen. He took lessons from them, he stayed in the cult’s houses, and chose to attend a military high school through their guidance. He listened to Fethullah Gulen's sermons and read his books and engaged in religious conversations in those houses, and after finishing the school he rented a house with other members of the cult and lived together. He delivered 15 percent of his salary by hand to another terrorist suspect as himmet.

He was told that "politics is important" and "people like them should come to better places to serve the greater good." After December 17-25, they (FETO members) began to disparage AK Party and make them listen to tapes discussing the government’s corruption. U.B. stated that "those CDs were encrypted; the injustice, thievery and corruption of the government was taught to them..." 

On the date of the crime H. K. gathered them and took their phones by stating that there would be a secret counter-terror operation and various tasks would be assigned to them. Later H. T. delegated the duties and assigned U.B. to stand guard with the sentries at the security gate. (Indictment, pp.319-320)​

 [...] At 15:00-16:00 vehicles entered through the gate; at 22:00 planes started to take off, and around 00:00 the lieutenant at their head stated that SAT commandoes would come and provide security. From time to time an army colonel checked on the SAT commandoes, and when M. G. said "bad things may happen, take precautionary measures," G3 weapons were distributed to them. While prayers were taking place at the mosques, commandoes began to fire in the air.

The lieutenant ordered SAT commandos to fire [at people] and they carried out the order. There were dead and injured people; they treated the injured who then went home. Afterwards they continued to wait at the security gate with M. G. When lieutenant H. T. said that they could take back their phones and leave, he left his G3 infantry rifle at the security gate and left the base. Later he responded for the head count. (Indictment, p. 1734).

On July 15, 2016 the shift at Akinci base ended earlier than usual, and staff who were thought of as inappropriate for joining the coup were sent home. Although the accused hadn’t been on duty, he was at Akinci base, the headquarters of the coup, and he guarded the security gate to the military housing area. As mentioned above, at the security gate of the military housing area 8 people were killed and 86 people were injured. 13 people participated in carrying out the coup attempt. When the financial crime report, the HTS analysis report, depositions by other parties and the entire file contents are analysed closely, it is understood that the accused fulfilled his duties as given by the putschists and took part in carrying out the coup attempt. (Indictment, p.1738)​.

The accused: Flight Lieutenant A. K. from the Fourth Main Jet Fighter Command​

The accused Flight Lieutenant A.K.’s declaration in court after taking off from the Fourth Main Fighter Command (the Akinci air base) without permission in an armed F-16 fighter jet (Indictment, p. 315 and p. 1242)​.

From the deposition of the accused A. K.: "… The house we went to was owned by an old couple and located in Esenler. I went there with M. G. T., a community brother [high-ranking FETO member] to hold meetings, to pray, to read the Qur'an and Fethullah Gulen — after the old couple moved to another part of the house. A brother named Enes always told us to hide the fact that we were members of this congregation, to the extent of even praying with just our eyes when we were at school.

"I knew that almost half of the 195 students in my class were members of the FETO congregation. I came to this conclusion because of the way these students talked, behaved, and cleaned up. I didn’t track down which community houses they went to or which community brother was guiding them, because like I said before, the only thing they told us was to keep up the grades, learn different languages, and be religious. In 2009, I graduated from the air force academy and was assigned as a lieutenant to Cigli Second Main Fighter Command. The same year, I received a call on my registered sim card from a public telephone box -- it was Enes. He arranged a meeting with my friends G. T. and Z. B. in a café in Karşıyaka. There, he told us that from then on we would be in contact with another community brother whose name was Eren. I don’t know his real name, but my own nickname within the community was Osman, M. G. T.’s was Enes, and Z. B.’s was Bilal. Enes introduced us to Eren in Bornova and we started meeting with him regularly. Z. B., M. G. T. and I rented an apartment and bought furniture in Bayrakli, in front of Maxi Tansas.

"My friends M. G. T. and Z. B. gave 15 percent of their first paychecks to the community brother, Eren, who frequently visited us in our apartment. Because of my family’s financial situation, Eren didn’t take any money from me for seven or eight months. I sent my money to my family over that time period and started giving Eren 15 percent of my paycheck irregularly when he came to visit us; the payment amounted to approximately 400 TL at the time. In addition, Eren would ask us to buy beer every now and then spill the drink down the sink, in order to place the empty cans outside our apartment where people could see them and assume we were normal members of the public." (Indictment, p. 315)​

Also from A. K.’s deposition: "After returning from my flight with M. C. K. at around 3 pm on July 14, 2016, M. F. Ç. from the 142nd squadron approached us and told us that he was expecting us and M. M. in his house in the evening. I texted M., either via WhatsApp or sms, and told him that we were going to meet at C.’s home. Later that night, we met at around 11 pm. …also, the general staff will give you targets and coordinates both within and outside the borders, as there are going to be operations [he said]. M. M. and M. C. K. will be flying and A. K. you are going to wait at the base, and will be protected until you receive further instructions. Others coming from different squadrons will join the operation, and Akıncı will be at the center of all this. This is why I called you; there will not be an air base general present and major things will be taking place. Depending on the outcome, we may announce an authoritarian regime. You are under my protection and I am following you closely; you grew up in front of our eyes, he said.

"These conversations were odd. After noting their content and style, we understood that C. was also part of the community. We even spoke amongst ourselves after leaving the house and he said something along the lines of: 'I knew you were a good boy.' It was at that moment that I realised that K. and M. had also been raised in community homes. From there, I went to the 141st squadron building…" (Indictment, p. 1242)​.

Source: TRT World Vision