Abdulkadir Kahraman, a military cadet who was arrested for involvement in a failed coup attempt last July in Turkey, said during his trial in Ankara on Tuesday that his commander ordered the troops to prepare for operations on the night of July 15 because there had been a terrorist attack in the capital.
Speaking during a hearing in a special court in Ankara’s Sincan Prison where 330 suspects face multiple life sentences over links to the coup attempt, Kahraman said his commander gathered 48 soldiers, including him, in a yard at their military base in Ankara, where they were given ammunition as the commander claimed there had been a terror attack in Ankara.
“We were told that we had been trained for that day and to never hesitate to use a gun when necessary,” he said.
Kahraman also said they were convinced that they were leaving for a terror operation after seeing some fellow citizens applauding them in front of the barracks.
“However, other citizens told us that what we were doing was wrong and attacked us. We told them we were there because of a terrorist attack. Then we went back to the barracks,” he added.
Other suspects also offered similar testimony during the hearing.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Turkish Gendarmerie Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler are among the complainants in the case in which 330 suspects were indicted, 245 of whom were in the courtroom for the hearing.
The suspects are accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, attempting to overthrow the government and parliament or prevent them from performing their duties, murder and membership in a terrorist organization.”
Another suspect, Spc. Sgt. Can Taşçı, said he gathered the soldiers to hear company commander Oğuz Serdar Özgür, who told them that “the situation is critical and that you may go outside as a unit.”
Taşçı, meanwhile, said he had no connection to the Gülen movement, a global civil society movement inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding the failed coup.
Despite the fact that Gülen denied the accusation and called for an international investigation into the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the Turkish government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Human rights organizations have criticized the erosion of fundamental rights in the country, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
In a statement on Jan. 19, Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “While the government has the complete right to hold to account those involved in the coup, the speed and scale of the arrests, including of top judges, suggests a purge rather than a process based on any evidence.”
“With hundreds of thousands of people dismissed or detained without due process, an independent media silenced and Kurdish opposition members of parliament in jail, Turkey has been plunged into its worst crisis in a generation,” he added.
Over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of Feb. 1, 89,775 people were being held without charge, with an additional 43,885 in pre-trial detention due to their alleged links to the movement.