The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan included in a criminal probe a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft that had to make an emergency landing in Turkey in July 2016 after it took off from a base in Cyprus, classified documents have revealed.
The flight record of the Boeing E-3D Sentry (AWACS) aircraft, part of the RAF’s No. 8 Squadron operating out of Waddington, Lincolnshire, was incorporated into a coup investigation that was launched in Turkey in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The documents obtained by Nordic Monitor appear to indicate a fishing expedition by Erdoğan’s loyalist prosecutors, who have drafted dozens of indictments full of conspiracies, innuendo and fabricated evidence.
The AWACS with tail number ZH102 and call sign RRR9941 reported the emergency when the crew detected smoke in the cabin as well as an electrical fault. The plane landed safely at 12.40 hours local time at the 8th Main Jet Base Command located in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. The aircraft was piloted by Lt. Mark Chapman, had a crew of 21 and took off from RAF station Akrotiri, located in the southern part of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
The incident was reported by Deniz Kartepe at the base command, and the logistics and maintenance crews were ordered to look into the problems reported in the cabin. The incident did not seem suspicious, merely an emergency landing, and Kartepe’s arrangements were made according to protocols. Moreover, both Turkey and the UK are NATO allies. Yet prosecutors and military investigators decided to take a closer look at the incident after the July 15 events and included the report in the annex of an indictment filed against alleged putschists.
Kartepe was detained and formally arrested on coup charges despite the fact that there was not a shred of evidence presented in the case that showed his involvement in the limited mobilization on the night of the coup, when he was actually away from the Diyarbakır Air Base and attending the wedding in Istanbul of the daughter of Air Force Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal. In fact, when he received news of the coup, he did his best to prevent it. Yet he faces three aggravated life sentences on coup charges if convicted. Kartepe accused Ünal of keeping the news of the air traffic activity from him during the wedding and claimed the order for the closure of Turkish airspace, allegedly issued by Ünal, was not transmitted to him, something he found quite odd.
The anti-UK sentiment is powerful among Turkey’s rulers, including President Erdoğan, who from time to time has enjoyed bashing the United Kingdom over a number of differences. The Turkish government sees Britain as a rival in Africa, especially Somalia, where the Erdoğan government has been expanding the Turkish presence. The media, controlled by Erdoğan, ran stories in 2016 claiming that some 10,000 British soldiers stationed in Cyprus planned to launch an invasion of Turkey during the July 15 coup attempt. Although no evidence was presented to support this far-fetched claim, pro-Erdoğan pundits promoted the story in TV debate programs.
The Turkish president’s chief aide, Yiğit Bulut, branded the UK as “not an ally of Turkey” in January 2016. He claimed in April 2017 that his boss, Erdoğan, ended Britain’s 200-year-long rule in the Middle East. In September 2017 he remarked that Turkey’s troubles stem from Erdogan’s anti-imperialist challenge to the UK’s queen on a program aired by the state-run TV network TRT. In January 2018 Bulut claimed Turkey was waging a war of independence against the UK. He publicly called on Turks to not send their children to British schools in July 2017.
With the purge of over 4,000 judges and prosecutors and their replacement by partisan, Islamist and neo-nationalist candidates, it is hardly surprising to see that government prosecutors would engage in a fishing expedition that only served to stoke anti-Western sentiment in Turkey. No wonder the Erdoğan government and the media it controls have been relentlessly floating unsubstantiated stories about the alleged complicity of the NATO allies in the limited military mobilization in July 2016 that looks more like it was a false flag operation orchestrated by Erdoğan himself.