Erdogan: Coup Soldier Told Top General to Talk to Gulen
Turkey’s president says coup plotters told captured chief-of-staff to call US-based preacher.
In an interview with France 24 on Saturday, Erdogan said captured coup soldiers were now revealing the source of their instructions.
“One of those who took our chief-of-staff hostage even went beyond to say: ‘Let’s put you in touch with our opinion leader Fetullah Gulen,’” Erdogan said.
Last Saturday, riot police guarded the General Staff headquarters in Ankara, a location which was one of the focal points of the July 15 coup attempt.
Senior officers who refused to participate were taken hostage, including the Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar. Akar was later rescued from pro-coup soldiers.
Turkey’s government has repeatedly said the deadly coup attempt on July 15, which martyred at least 246 people and injured more than 2,100 others, was organized by followers of U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen.
Gulen is also accused of a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the ‘parallel state’.
Erdogan was also asked about calls for the restoration of capital punishment for coup plotters in Turkey. The European Union earlier this week called for an “unequivocal rejection of the death penalty”.
During pro-government rallies in Turkey over the weekend, calls for the death sentence for coup plotters could be heard from the crowd.
“The demands of the people cannot be overlooked in democracies. It is your right. This right shall be examined within the constitutional framework by the concerned authorities,” Erdogan said in an Istanbul speech last Sunday.
During the France 24 interview, Erdogan said: “In democracies, sovereignty rests unconditionally with the nation.”
“Is there capital punishment in the U.S.? There is. In Russia? There is. China? There is. Capital punishment exists in the large majority of the world,” he added.
Erdogan also said Turkey had been kept waiting for 53 years on the door of European Union to be a member state.
The Turkish president asked if those countries which had already become EU members were more eligible than Turkey: “We are a more advanced country than all of them,” he said, adding: “From fundamental rights and freedoms to economic opportunities.”
Turkey has been a candidate country for EU membership since 2005.
Chapter 33 of Turkey’s European Union accession process, which covers economic and financial provisions, was opened last month.
Hundreds martyred, thousands injured
The Turkish president also responded to a question about purported ill-treatment of some captured soldiers during the coup attempt, featured in photographs published in the media.
“There was a mutual brawl,” he said. “During this brawl, soldiers and police officers confronted each other.”
“Our chief-of-staff has a serious laceration in his hand and neck [sustained] while he was handcuffed,” he added.
Erdogan said the most important issue was to talk about the 246 martyrs and 2,185 injured: “That is the real ferocity,” he said.