A chief sergeant who was assigned to the residence of Turkey’s chief of general staff was falsely accused of coup plotting and subjected to abuse, torture and beatings, documents have revealed.
According to documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, Veysel Tokmak, a 47-year-old chief sergeant who was assigned to serve the family of then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, had no involvement in the coup attempt in 2016. Yet he was detained and tortured in an unofficial detention center at military headquarters after he had worked to ensure the safety of Akar’s wife, Şule Akar.
Tokmak was assigned in 2013 to the General Staff Protection Regiment charged with guarding the residential complexes of top commanders. He had attended to personal chores all day for Akar, who is now defense minister, and ran errands for him on July 15, 2016, when the putschist attempt was made. He had been by Akar’s side day and night and had never even taken a vacation during the three years he served Akar and his wife at their residence.
On July 15, 2016 he handled some banking errands for Akar in the morning and returned to the residence around 13:00 hours. He had done some maintenance work in and around the house until Akar’s wife Şule landed in Ankara on a flight from Izmir at 17.10. He sent the driver to pick her up from the airport and greeted her when she arrived home at around 18:00.
Tokmak says his shifts normally ended when Akar arrived at the house but that on July 15 Akar never came home, forcing Tokmak to stay on duty all night. Around 21:00, he heard a loud explosion nearby and called Ümit Ördek, the protection officer, to find out what had happened. He was initially told there was a drill going on and later was informed that there was a sabotage attempt on the General Staff headquarters. He could not reach out to the General Staff on a cell phone or a land line.
In the meantime, he made sure the general’s wife was safe and secure. He was with her when the wife of Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler and the wife and daughter of Land Forces Commander Gen. Salih Zeki Çolak came to the Akars’ house. Sgt. Tokmak took the women to the bunker in the basement for safety and asked Şule Akar if he could take them to a place where she would feel more secure. She wanted to stay at the house and invited family friends, a man and a woman, to the house to stay with them during the night. In the meantime Akar called his wife and let her know that he was OK. The guests left the house in the morning.
The brief filed by Tokmak’s lawyer alleging the torture of his client:tokmak2
Gen. Akar finally came home in the evening hours of July 16 with a new protective detail led by Col. Mustafa Köksal. He gathered all the force commanders at his house for a meeting in the garden, and then he left for a meeting with the prime minister. Tokmak left the house around 22:00 and went to his apartment. He called in the next day to arrange transport but was told to stay home.
The police came to his house on July 24 to detain him after a statement extracted from another officer, Levent Türkkan, who suggested he might be affiliated with government critic the Gülen movement. Türkkan, who gave names in his initial statement, later recanted his statement in court, saying he was almost tortured death and forced to sign a false confession and name names.
Like Türkkan, Sgt. Tokmak was interrogated in an undisclosed location at the Special Forces Command and was brutally tortured. He was beaten, subjected to electroshock and waterboarding, starved and forced to sleep on a wet floor, according to the briefs filed by his lawyer, Ümit Yaiar, on October 18, 2016 and January 13, 2017. His psychological well-being was negatively impacted by the torture and abuse, and he remains in shock over what happened, according to the lawyer.
The 2016 failed coup was believed to be a false flag operation plotted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and military chief Akar. Erdoğan used the putschist attempt as a pretext to consolidate his power, purge pro-NATO officers from the military and launch a cross-border military incursion into Syria. Erdoğan blamed US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen for the attempt and launched a major witch-hunt against his followers on dubious criminal charges. Gülen has strongly denied any role in the abortive putsch, and the Turkish government has so far failed to present any evidence linking Gülen to the coup attempt.
Sgt. Tokmak was acquitted of coup charges but convicted of terrorism on June 20, 2019. His case is still pending on appeal.