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HomeHeadlineCoup Plotter General Sonmezates: 'The coup of July 15th was a conspiracy...

Coup Plotter General Sonmezates: ‘The coup of July 15th was a conspiracy that was set up by the state from beginning to end, and we are the victims.’

Müyesser Yıldız*

Former brigadier general Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, who was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment hundreds of times in the assassination attempt against Erdoğan and the General Staff Roof trials, spoke for the first time after 4 years and explained what they planned on July 15th. Once again, Sönmezateş, who said, “Yes, I participated in the coup; but I am not a member of FETÖ,” claimed that before the trials began, everyone was given a silence order regarding Hulusi Akar and everyone remained silent.

Four days later is the 7th anniversary of July 15th. The pro-government media, as every year, tells the stories of our martyrs and calls for “not forgetting and not letting forget July 15th.”

However, hardly anyone is left wondering about the progress and outcome of the ongoing July 15th trials.

For example, yesterday two July 15th trials were held at the Sincan Prison Complex, but there was no journalist except me. One of these cases was the Naval Forces Command case. We will also write separately about this case, which was retried due to the Supreme Court of Cassation overturning the verdicts without proper examination.

The second trial was related to our July 15th martyrs, which was separated from the General Staff Roof Case and was the fifth hearing of the trial opened against the individuals claimed to be members of the so-called Peace at Home Council. This trial has been going on almost from year to year because the 17th Heavy Penal Court caused a delaying factor by waiting for the General Staff Roof Case to be concluded at the Court of Cassation, where the main perpetrators of our martyrs are being tried.

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General Sonmezates

At the beginning of yesterday’s hearing, where the defendants from Ankara were present in the courtroom and the defendants from outside Ankara participated via SEGBİS, the Presiding Judge once again gave the floor to the defendants with requests and statements by saying, “Those files have not been returned yet, we will wait for their return.”

While most of the defendants did not speak, former colonel Cemil Turhan, whose name was found under the so-called coup declaration, after stating that he still had the problem of not being able to receive legal assistance, requested the appointment of a lawyer from Antalya or his transfer to Ankara, and then said the following:

“A person who shot and killed one of our police officers with a point-blank shot on the night of July 15th was sentenced to 2 years in prison. As for us, we received aggravated life imprisonment. Even this incident is sufficient to overturn the General Staff Roof Case. I have not been able to understand what has been examined in this case for 4 years and I do not know how to defend myself. It is meaningless for me to say that I am not a member of the Peace at Home Council and that I have no involvement in the killings. Because the Court of Cassation will uphold the Roof Case. You have no opportunity to change or make a contrary decision to this verdict. It cannot be called a trial.”

“AKP Sent the List of Ministers to the General Staff for Approval”

After Turhan, former brigadier general Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, starting his words by saying, “I have never spoken until today. For 4 years, I have been watching and listening to the prosecutors and the courts, not just the politicians and journalists. There is nothing left unsaid, everything is in the files. But what I am about to say is not for the supporters, but for those who appear to be opposition,” he said.

Then, Sönmezateş claimed that the nationalist-fascist faction has been supporting Erdoğan for a long time, and that “the Perinçek group and journalists who have no moral values” associate everything relevant or irrelevant with FETÖ and shout “We are Atatürkists” when they are cornered. He also claimed that the sects deceive people with God, and the nationalists deceive them with Atatürk. Here are some of Sönmezateş’s statements:

“Prosecutors and courts believe that they ‘do not make mistakes.’ I also used to believe that. I would not want to die without experiencing what I have lived through. During my military service, I lived in a bubble and thought that justice existed. I learned that I was wrong by experiencing it. I am not accusing you, I am not declaring allegiance to you; I am telling you about my experiences. The indictments are actually prepared by a cell in the palace, and the prosecutors only make adjustments. The courts complete the procedure as required by duty. The previous judge did not listen to my final statement, poor guy fell asleep.”

Upon the warning of the Presiding Judge, “Talk about the case. This is not a political arena; it’s a court,” Sönmezateş continued, saying, “I am telling you about my experiences at the 17th Heavy Penal Court. The judge had no initiative. That’s the summary of July 15th. That chairman became a member of the Court of Cassation. Now he will cross-approve the sentence he gave.”

“There are thousands of women and children in prisons. I have no connection with them, nor with these collapsing companies. I neither received nor gave money. Even if it goes into the state’s treasury, I will not say anything, it goes into someone’s pocket again. I don’t know what ByLock is. Whatever it is, it is not something used by the soldiers who participated in the coup. The main question here is; where is the main list? No court has seen that list. It is asked from a certain center, and mysterious answers are given, ‘Yes,’ ‘No.’ This is not law, it’s an Excel sheet. It is so easy to remove and add. The potato issue and the like are so absurd. There is one important issue. It is said, ‘Ergenekon and Balyoz are FETÖ setups.’ I say it clearly; yes, they are real. The General Staff has a coup plan for every period, every time. It is revealed when the time comes. Yes, there was a tutelage regime in Turkey, and the headquarters of this regime was the General Staff. Not anymore, it’s over. The list of those who will become ministers is sent to the General Staff, examined, some of them are crossed out, and it is approved. When the AKP was first elected, they sent the list and determined their ministers that way.”

Upon this, the Presiding Judge asked, “Did you take part in such an operation?” Sönmezateş replied, “Yes, I am already talking about my testimonies,” and continued:

“There was Ergenekon, there was Balyoz, but the trials were unlawful. They judged as if they were true, as if those plans were implemented. It was a political process, and the prosecutor was Erdogan himself. Now the nationalists are not criticizing Erdoğan. Because they are afraid, they are cowards. Military espionage, on the other hand, was indeed real. The images of thousands of soldiers were at the General Staff and MIT. It is my testimony. Yaşar Güler met with those who did not believe in this case, put the video in front of them, and they watched it. None of them said, ‘We didn’t know there was no military espionage.’ No patriotic soldier who watched those images can say that there was no espionage.”

What Was the Plan for July 15th?

“After giving these basic information, if we come to July 15th,” Sönmezateş recorded the following:

“Yes, I participated in the coup, and I also said what I did. July 15th is not a FETÖ coup, and I am not a member of FETÖ. There are so many high-ranking names who participated in this coup but are not members of FETÖ; MIT knows. I don’t mention their names because I did not get their permission. Yes, there was a plan on July 15th, but it was not followed. I was very surprised, and I learned a lot after the trials began. Before the trials started, everyone was given a silence order, and everyone remained silent. It was said, ‘No one will talk about Hulusi Akar.’ I don’t know why this order was given; I am not interested anymore.”

image 36
General Hulusi Akar

Upon the question of the Presiding Judge, “Who gave the order or organized it?” Sönmezateş made the following claims:

“Hulusi’s men, my commanders. Imams cannot be my commanders, and I would spit on their faces. The nationalists, the Perinçek group knows who these people are. The information given to convince my commanders; ‘Democracy is turning into despotism. Many institutions, especially the police, are surrendering to religious conservatism. The closeness with Iran has reached dangerous levels; pro-Iranians have reached the level of undersecretary and minister. There is a plan to destroy the Syrian Air Force.’ According to what my commanders told me, someone’s share of the bribery wheel in the country had reached 30 percent. Rıza Sarraf was a tiny part of these affairs. I am telling these things in order to draw attention to how crooked and foolish what is said. It is claimed that ‘Ergenekon and Balyoz are FETÖ setups.’ I say it clearly; yes, they are real. The General Staff has a coup plan for every period, every time. It is revealed when the time comes. Yes, there was a tutelage regime in Turkey, and the headquarters of this regime was the General Staff. Not anymore, it’s over. The list of those who will become ministers is sent to the General Staff, examined, some of them are crossed out, and it is approved.”

Upon this, the Presiding Judge asked, “Did you take part in such an operation?” Sönmezateş replied, “Yes, I am already talking about my testimonies,” and continued:

“There was Ergenekon, there was Balyoz, but the trials were unlawful. They judged as if they were true, as if those plans were implemented. It was a political process, and the prosecutor was Erdogan himself. Now the nationalists are not criticizing Erdoğan. Because they are afraid, they are cowards. Military espionage, on the other hand, was indeed real. The images of thousands of soldiers were at the General Staff and MIT. It is my testimony. Yaşar Güler met with those who did not believe in this case, put the video in front of them, and they watched it. None of them said, ‘We didn’t know there was no military espionage.’ No patriotic soldier who watched those images can say that there was no espionage.”

What Was the Plan for July 15th?

“After giving these basic information, if we come to July 15th,” Sönmezateş recorded the following:

“Yes, I participated in the coup, and I also said what I did. July 15th is not a FETÖ coup, and I am not a member of FETÖ. There are so many high-ranking names who participated in this coup but are not members of FETÖ; MIT knows. I don’t mention their names because I did not get their permission. Yes, there was a plan on July 15th, but it was not followed. I was very surprised, and I learned a lot after the trials began. Before the trials started, everyone was given a silence order, and everyone remained silent. It was said, ‘No one will talk about Hulusi Akar.’ I don’t know why this order was given; I am not interested anymore.”

Upon the question of the Presiding Judge, “Who gave the order or organized it?” Sönmezateş made the following claims:

“Hulusi’s men, my commanders. Imams cannot be my commanders, and I would spit on their faces. The nationalists, the Perinçek group knows who these people are. The commanders informed me when they were trying to convince me; ‘Democracy is turning into despotism. Many institutions, especially the police, are surrendering to religious conservatism. The closeness with Iran has reached dangerous levels; pro-Iranians have reached the level of undersecretary and minister. There is a plan to destroy the Syrian Air Force.’ That’s what they told me. Another thing they told me was that in the bribery network in the country, someone’s share had reached 30 percent. Rıza Sarraf was a tiny part of these affairs. If these things I say are not true, then I am a traitor, a coup plotter; I accept all the titles. The coup was a kind of detective move, it had to be intervened. The core team that would participate in the coup consisted of 100-150 people. Because they did not trust those who approached the AKP or the FETÖ members. The fewer people who knew, the better. Let me explain the plan; MIT knows, and I know in detail. The Police Intelligence also knows because they talked to me. First and foremost, Erdoğan was going to be arrested, a total of 8-9 high-ranking people were going to be taken, and they were going to be immediately brought to court. There was no tank, no cutting off the bridge, and no soldiers taking to the streets. Do I need to take an oath? I swear on my late mother, she is my mother, and on my daughters, they are my daughters, this is how it was. Erdoğan was going to be taken at 03:00 at night. When I saw what was happening on the bridge, I said, ‘Who are these people?’ How were you going to take Erdoğan after making so much noise? What is the logic behind the F-16 flying? In this state, the mission turned into a task that was impossible for me to accomplish. Moreover, Erdoğan had been missing for a week, we didn’t know where he was. The architecture of the thousand-room palace was difficult for us. When he went to Istanbul, the Huber Pavilion where he stayed constantly was small and easy. It went beyond the plan in a way that I still can’t understand.”

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General Akin Ozturk

Whom Did He Accuse?

Sönmezateş continued his allegations as follows:

“When the bombing of Damascus came up, Akın Öztürk said he would carry out the order, but he said we would lose one-third of our Air Force. Now he is paying the price. It is said that ‘FETÖ shot down the Russian plane.’ Is the Air Force Commander who gave the order a FETÖ member? If he is brave and honorable, let him say, ‘I did not give this order,’ and take it to court. The issue of Iran; what is Doğu Perinçek doing in Iran? People like Orhan Bursalı, Mehmet Ali Güller defend Iran. Aytaç Yalman went to Iran multiple times after retiring. What business does he have there? The MIT knows. He was in Iran three weeks before he died of COVID. If we go back to July 15th; there are three helicopters that came from Antalya to Marmaris. There are witnesses who saw ‘gendarmerie’ written on them. People dressed in black with masks and ropes descending to the hotel beach killed two police officers shortly after Erdogan left the hotel. It is our duty to find the killers of those police officers. We were in Izmir Çiğli at that time. No one, neither prosecutor nor police, asked me about those killed police officers; but I received a sentence for that. Abidin Ünal is important here. Why? Because although the court requested it, he did not send the radar records with Yılmaz Özkaya and İsmail Güneykaya. Did something happen? No, it did not. It was said that ‘There are 38 members of the Peace at Home Council,’ but it was never discussed again. It was said that ‘There are appointment lists,’ but 50 percent of the officers on the list were not questioned or arrested. They were promoted, and they are still on duty. I am telling these things to emphasize how crooked and foolish what is said. There is a statement given by an officer who left the Turkish Armed Forces in 2014-2015 to Ankara TEM. Hulusi Akar, Yaşar Güler, Cihat Yaycı, and Arif Çetin are called ‘Gülenists,’ meaning FETÖ members. The one who gave this statement is now a reliable FETÖ expert. Who is this immoral and reliable liar? Ahmet Zeki Üçok. Now he is in the Good Party; he chose the best party he could choose, and the two of them found each other good. Those who scan the people on the Bosporus Bridge with a black minibus, are they the fearful Sedat Peker and Levent Bektaş? Thirty students were stabbed; who did it, we still don’t know. Who shot Binali Yıldırım in the Kastamonu tunnel? We don’t know. We didn’t prosecute, we didn’t ask. Six additional planes flew in Ankara that night. We don’t know which base or which country they belonged to. The Air Force does not answer. Abidin Ünal does everything not to go to prison. There are no hotel footage from Marmaris. We had a total of 100-150 people participating, 30 thousand people were expelled from the Turkish Armed Forces – the Police as well. I say all this despite excluding the political Islamists and the Perinçek group; if they still say ‘FETÖ coup’; come on, hands up, let’s dance over the dead… I say these things because it is my duty to history.”

Upon Sönmezateş’s final statement, the Presiding Judge reacted, saying, “I guess it wasn’t addressed to us. In the next session, we will only allow representatives from news agencies to attend the hearing.”

“These Cases Cannot Be Resolved Unless These Individuals Give Testimony”

Defendant Muhsin Kutsi Barış, the former Commander of the Presidential Guard Regiment, stated that he understood from Sönmezateş’s statements that certain things were discussed and planned within the triangle of Sönmezateş, Abidin Ünal, and Hulusi Akar, and he explained the following:

“If you are a staff colonel and the Commander of the Presidential Guard Regiment, and you don’t know anything, and your first superior is now the Minister of National Defense, and your second superior is Hulusi Akar, then there is nothing you can do. I am realizing once again how I was drawn into a plot. July 15th is one of the biggest conspiracies written in world history. On that day, the MIT Undersecretary, who received the coup notification, went to the headquarters that would carry out the coup and had a meeting with Akar and Güler. We don’t know this, and we don’t have the chance to know. Not everyone has the chance to be like Sönmezateş. The coup of July 15th was a conspiracy that was set up by the state from beginning to end, and we are the victims.”

*Muyesser Yildiz is a Turkish investigative journalist focusing on defence and intelligence.

This article first appeared at muyesseryildiz.com on July 11, 2023 and translated from Turkish to English by Politurco.

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