Turkey considers English language study notes to be criminal evidence in coup trials

 

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

A Turkish prosecutor presented study notes for English language skills written by an officer in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) as evidence of a coup attempt against the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to secret police and prosecutor documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, Maj. Ahmet Albayrak, who was working at the General Staff, was charged with attempting to topple the government based on his study notes for improving his English language skills.

Albayrak, department chief of the Planning and Administration Bureau at the General Staff when the abortive coup took place on July 15, 2016, appeared to have played no role whatsoever in the limited military mobilization. He locked himself in his office when a gunfight erupted at General Staff headquarters and stayed indoors overnight to protect himself from any harm.

Yet he was detained on coup charges, formally arrested and indicted. The nine-page evidentiary report presented to the prosecutor’s office by Hakan Duman, head of the counterterrorism unit at the Ankara Police Department, against Maj. Albayrak in October 2016 included various notes found in his desk in office No. 87. Nothing seems out of the ordinary among the notes that became part of the prosecutor’s criminal investigation under case file No. 2016/ 116281.

 

One of many pages of English language study notes over which Maj. Albayrak faces aggravated life in a Turkish prison.

 

The handwritten notes suggest the major was trying to familiarize himself with idioms and everyday spoken English for various occasions such as going to a concert, staying in a hotel, making or changing reservations, driving on the freeway, vacationing, buying a computer, explaining something about himself, seeing old friends, adopting a pet and more. Most were explained in simple English, but occasionally he wrote Turkish translations as well.

Albayrak is being tried at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court and faces life in prison if convicted. He was working as a project officer who followed legal matters at the General Staff. On the night of the coup, he and other officers were instructed to stay late at headquarters to attend a meeting for an upcoming Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting in August. In a court hearing in September 2018, he testified that a shuttle bus was arranged at 23.30 hours for all who stayed late to go home after the meeting.

When he went to the conference room at around 20.00 hours, he said he saw other officers in his department who were involved in preparing for the YAŞ meeting. However, Col. Albay Cemil Turhan came in to alert everybody in the room that there was a threat of a terrorist attack on the headquarters and ordered them to take up arms and secure the perimeter. Albayrak said he went to his office and stayed there overnight to keep away from any gunfight. He played no role in the coup bid; yet, he was arrested and put in Sincan Prison, from where he has been trying to make his case heard with the hope of acquittal and release.

The evidentiary report including these handwritten study notes was prepared on October 13, 2016 by three police officers in the counterterrorism department. The report is one of many indicators that show how criminal trials are being conducted in Turkey, where an Islamist government has been fanning xenophobic sentiment among the population with conspiracy theories that lack any evidence.

Using the putschist attempt as a pretext, Erdoğan purged and/or jailed half of the generals from NATO’s second largest army in terms of manpower. Thousands of officers were removed from the TSK and were replaced by neo-nationalists and Islamists who are bent on doing the dirty bidding of the Erdoğan government.

The full eight-page evidentiary report is posted below:

 

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