A Turkish general who defied putschists’ orders on the night of a failed coup in July 2016 and issued a countermanding order was jailed on coup plotting charges in a further legal twist in Turkey, where half the generals in NATO’s second largest army were purged and/or jailed, mostly on dubious charges.
A secret document obtained by Nordic Monitor uncovers important evidence that İbrahim Yılmaz, the commander of the 7th Army Corps in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, defied an order allegedly issued by the putschists at the Office of the Chief of General Staff on the night of the coup attempt, on July 15, 2016. He was the first general in the military who issued a countermanding order using a secure messaging system within military communications channels, telling officers and troops under his command not to comply with any of what he called unlawful orders by the coup plotters.
As the very limited mobilization that took place in Istanbul and Ankara hit the news, he called the Land Forces Command and General Staff Operations Center at 22.00 but was unable to reach anybody. He then called Diyarbakır Governor Hüseyin Aksoy, who said he had fuzzy information on what was going on. At 22.30, he phoned the Land Forces Command, the office of the deputy chief of general staff and the Land Forces Operations Center but again failed to reach anybody.
On his way to the garrison, Col. Sebahattin Kılınç, the chief of staff of the 7th Army Corps, called Yılmaz, his commanding officer, at 23.05 and informed him of the putschist order that was transmitted under the name of “The Peace at Home Council,” which declared that martial law was in effect. The general told the officer: “What martial law? Who the hell are these maniacs? Don’t do anything until I arrive, I’m on my way.” He reviewed the putschists’ order for the first time when he arrived at the base and immediately decided that the order was illegal and that nobody would comply with it. In contravention of the rules and regulations of secure military communications, nobody had signed the putschists’ order, which is probably why Gen. Yılmaz questioned its authenticity.
In the meantime, Yılmaz had been in constant contact with the chief public prosecutor and other officials in the province and was appreciated and recognized for his anti-coup position from the start. Yet, to the surprise of many in the province, he was detained on July 20 and formally arrested under orders from Ankara. In the indictment filed against him, the prosecutor demanded three consecutive and aggravated life sentences plus 15 years. His trial made no sense whatsoever as none of his troops was involved in any mobilization, nobody got hurt in his jurisdiction and he was on record as having called the coup order illegal and did everything in his power to work with the government.Ibrahim_Yilmaz_Order
The secret document kept out of public sight by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proves that general had nothing to do with the coup. In a message he signed at 01.00 on July 16, 2016 and transmitted via the secure messaging system to top officials in the 7th Army Corps jurisdiction, which included the governor’s offices in Diyarbakır, Mardin, Batman and Şanlıurfa as well as the Diyarbakır Police Department, Gen. Yılmaz made it abundantly clear that the order issued by putschists was illegal and that he had ordered his troops to not comply with any of the tasks listed in the order.
Describing the original order that was sent unsigned as groundless and not issued within the chain of command, Yılmaz said his troops would operate in line with the constitution and within the democratic system. His order was also conveyed to the General Staff and other force commanders to keep them abreast of the situation in Diyarbakır. He assured that there was no activity to be concerned about within the command of the 7th Army Corps and that everything was under control.
Yet, he was detained on July 20, five days after the coup failed. Local officials knew he had nothing to do with a coup, no unusual activity was reported among any of the forces under his command, nobody got hurt and in fact he was on the record in taking a strong stand against the coup. His request for all the officials he had worked with that night to be heard as witnesses to corroborate his account was mysteriously denied.
In the indictment, Yılmaz’s visit to the courthouse at the invitation and order of the chief public prosecutor was described as an attempt to occupy the courthouse. He defended himself in a hearing in May 2017, saying that the visit was requested by the chief prosecutor, who should be summoned as a witness to testify in court. He said the chief prosecutor asked him to come to his aid with troops and that that was the reason he went there with armed guards, to provide security in the courthouse.
The only evidence against him was that Yılmaz’s name appeared on a list put out by the putschists of personnel who would be tasked during martial law if the coup were to have succeeded. He had no knowledge of such a list until he saw the putschists’ order that came with a list of names of commanders assigned to oversee the implementation of martial law. In the trial he testified that he did not know who put his name on such a list and said it was done without his approval or knowledge.
In fact, when the Justice Ministry issued an order on July 16 to detain all the officers listed in the document, the chief public prosecutor in Diyarbakır removed his name from the detention list because he knew the general had nothing to do with the coup. Yet, he was arrested anyway four days later. During the hearings held by the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court in May 2017, Yılmaz also testified that he had worked in close cooperation with the governor, the chief prosecutor and the regional police and intelligence chiefs to help suppress any illegal activity taking place in Ankara. “I even talked to then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım twice on the phone and briefed him on the situation,” he added.
He complained that the General Staff learned about the attempt at 17.00 on July 15; yet, he had received neither a written nor a verbal order from the General Staff, Land Forces Command or any superior officer asking him to do whatever was necessary to foil the coup attempt. Despite the total silence from the top brass, he was the first one who issued a countermanding order against the putschists. With clearance from the prime minister, the general also authorized the deployment of two F-16 fighter jets from a Diyarbakır base to bomb Akıncı Air Base in Ankara, where the putschists were running their operations. He did not allow assault helicopters deployed in Diyarbakır to move to Ankara when the putschists called and asked the base officer to send them loaded with ammunition.
The government put him in solitary confinement for 18 months, a torture in itself, restricted his access to his lawyer to only one hour a week, which is inadequate time to prepare a defense statement. His daughter Nazlı Yılmaz, an attorney by profession, tried to defend her father in a court run by judges who appeared to have made up their minds about the general’s guilt. At a hearing held in December 2017, the judges denied the defendant’s motion to appear in person before the court to deliver his final defense statement and instead ruled that he should testify via teleconference from prison. His lawyer’s motions to expand the probe were also rejected.
In the final hearing of the case on January 24, 2018, the judges ruled for his conviction and sentenced him to 12 years, six months in prison. He was ordered to be kept in jail while his appeal was pending. The Supreme Court of Appeals overruled his conviction in March 2019 and ordered his release from prison. But he sustained substantial damage to his career, health and family because of his prolonged jail time and baseless allegations that lacked evidence.
His unlawful arrest and subsequent conviction with no evidence means that the list of officers who would be detained was drawn up without the knowledge of the officers named in that document and gives further credence to claims that the list was in fact prepared by the Erdoğan government’s intelligence agency long before as part of the planned purge of pro-NATO officers from the Turkish military. The Erdoğan government needed a pretext to purge and jail thousands of officers, and the false flag coup bid was a perfect excuse to proceed with a plan of transforming NATO’s second largest army into the Turkish version of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards staffed with Islamists and neo-nationalists.