TURKEY

Pro-coup general claims innocence, threatens court

PRO-COUP GENERAL CLAIMS INNOCENCE, THREATENS COURT

A former brigadier general among the defendants in the main trial on last year's bloody coup attempt, blamed on FETÖ, denied his role in the coup and told the judges they would "pay the price" if they rule for his sentencing

Brigadier General Alparslan Çetin was the latest high-ranking military figure to testify in the main coup trial in the capital Ankara on Friday. Çetin, who is among 221 defendants in the case related to the coup allegedly masterminded by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), denied he was involved in the coup bid that killed 250 people and openly threatened the court. "If you punish someone innocent, you will pay the price," he told the judges.

Çetin was deputy director in the Office of Chief of General Staff before the coup in a department tasked with planning army operations. He is accused of coordinating the coup attempt at an operations center in army headquarters, and his name was on a list of assignments prepared by the military junta's Peace At Home Council. He told the court he was not aware of a coup attempt unfolding even after he heard gunshots outside the building he was working in. He claimed he found out about the coup only when he checked social media and saw statements by the country's leaders calling people to confront the putschists. He said he did not leave his room after he found out about the coup. When lawyers for the plaintiffs questioned him about how he got into the Operations Center, a critical department in the army headquarters that was controlled by putschists and has restricted access, he said he went because he was "authorized." He failed to explain why he spent seven hours in the place. Instead, he quoted verses from the Quran about "injustice" and said, "His conviction would be noted." "There will be a price to pay if you convict someone innocent," he told the court.

Some 221 people, including Akın Öztürk, the alleged commander of the pro-coup troops, face lifetime imprisonment in the trial where Çetin is being tried. In two weeks of hearings, Öztürk and other generals testified in the courtroom inside a maximum-security prison complex in Ankara's Sincan suburb. The trial was adjourned to October 30.

Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of FETÖ, is the prime suspect in all trials and faces aggravated life imprisonment for his role in masterminding the coup attempt. Prosecutors say Adil Öksüz, a fugitive FETÖ member who was briefly detained when he was captured at Akıncı base on July 15, plotted the coup with FETÖ infiltrators in the army, and they executed the coup after Gülen approved it.

In the coup trials, most defendants, despite mounting evidence showing their involvement, deny the charges brought before them in the courts. FETÖ planted its men - and women - in every institution, ranging from the army to law enforcement, for decades before it openly declared war against the Turkish state and waged two coup attempts in 2013. Disguised with code names and accused of using secretive methods of correspondence and a distinct secular lifestyle worlds away from what FETÖ promotes as a religious life, its members infiltrated positions in key institutions that they ultimately sought to take over. The group's leader denies the allegations, although an investigation shows intricate ties between "civilian" Gülenists and FETÖ's alleged infiltrators.

The first verdict in cases regarding the coup attempt in Ankara was delivered on Thursday, as 23 pro-coup officers were sentenced to life imprisonment. The defendants were accused of abducting Fahri Kasırga, the secretary general of the Turkish Presidency who was liberated after the deadly putsch was quelled.

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