Aides of Turkey’s top commander, jailed on false charges, revealed a plot to frame the innocent

Armored personnel carrier that was deployed to deter a terror threat on military bases on July 15, 2016.

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

Two close aides of Turkey’s then chief of general staff and now Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar — a chief advisor and a chief of staff — were jailed and purged from the service over alleged links to the Gülen movement, a vocal critic of the government, even though both had been cleared in vigorous vetting and security checks multiple times in the past and no link to either Gülen or any other group was ever found. These revelations further confirm a plot to frame the innocent by the government of President Recep Tayip Erdoğan, which has now transformed NATO’s second largest army into hotbed of Islamists and neo-nationalists.

Col. Orhan Yıkılkan, who served as chief advisor to Akar and had been with him for years, was subjected to security and clearance checks five times in the past. The background checks, which included invasive investigative techniques such as looking into his relatives and interviewing his schoolmates, childhood friends and neighbors in places where he had lived, were conducted by the national police intelligence as well as the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

“On five different occasions, information was requested from the police and the MIT about him,” said Col. Cemil Turhan in his statement to the Ankara Police Department on February 22, 2017. Turhan was the department head at the Generals and Admirals Bureau in the General Staff, which oversees appointments, assignments and promotions for flag officers in the Turkish military.

 

Col. Cemil Turhan’s statement, which shows how close aides of the top commander were cleared multiple times in the vetting process:

Cemil_Turhan_statement_orhan_Yikilkan_Hakan_Ocal

 

Yıkılkan had worked with Akar for years when Akar was the commander of the Land Forces. A security background check was conducted when he was there, and no information was found that he was linked to the Gülen movement, a group that has been critical of Erdoğan on a range of issues, from corruption in the administration to Turkey’s aiding and abetting of armed jihadist groups in Syria and Libya. When Akar was appointed chief of general staff in August 2015, a second security check was conducted on Yıkılkan, and he came out clean. He had no association with any group.

 

Col. Orhan Yıkılkan (2) seen in CCTV footage at the General Staff without a sidearm. The prosecutor claimed he had a gun during the putschist attempt on July 15, 2016.

 

During the selection process for the field command position in March 2016, a third investigation was run into his background, and again nothing was found. In April 2016 he was subjected to a fourth screening upon orders from Akar, who had said, according to Turhan, “You will ask the police and MIT to investigate everyone who works with me and reassign any person [out of the General Staff] about whom there is even the slightest claim [of links to the Gülen group].” As a result, the Generals and Admirals Bureau inquired with the police and intelligence service for the fourth time about Yıkılkan. The reports came back with no indication that might suggest he was affiliated with the Gülenists or any other group.

 

Col. Orhan Yıkılkan’s mug shot taken by the police on July 20, 2016.

 

Turhan also remembered a conversation with Maj. Gen. Ömer Şevki Gençtürk, who was in charge of the personnel department at the Land Forces Command. Gençtürk showed him a separate MIT report about Yıkılkan and said that Akar personally asked Hakan Fidan, the head of the Turkish intelligence agency, to run a special investigation into Yıkılkan when Akar was appointed chief of general staff. MIT conducted a more in-depth probe and confirmed that Yıkılkan had nothing to do with the Gülen movement. “These inquiries were not based on any suspicion but were rather part of the requirement to seek information from the police and MIT prior to critical activities,” Turhan explained.

Similarly, Lt. Col. Hüseyin Hakan Öcal, who was Akar’s chief of staff, was also subjected to four screenings, and no information was submitted by the police or MIT at the time hinting that he had any association with the Gülen group. He was appointed chief of staff in April 2016 after clearance from the the security and background checks. But Akar ordered a fresh investigation into him immediately before he was scheduled to start in his new position on June 20, 2016.

 

Lt. Col. Hüseyin Hakan Öcal (2) was stripped down to his underwear and taken into police custody on July 16, 2016.

 

“Upon orders from the chief of general staff, we once more requested [a background check], and for this order we proceeded as follows: We invited the persons in charge [of running such background checks] from MIT and the police to the General Staff [headquarters], and together with Lt. Gen. Ilhan Talu, the head of personnel at the General Staff, we told them, ‘This person [Öcal] will be the chief of staff for the chief at the general staff. You were asked about him three times before, and you said there was no connection. We request you take another look and inform us in writing by June 20’,” Turhan explained. Both the police and MIT informed the General Staff that Öcal had nothing to do with the Gülen movement.

Yet both Yıkılkan and Öcal were branded as Gülenists the day after the failed coup, which was believed to be a false flag operation set up by President Erdoğan and his intelligence and military chiefs to launch a massive purge of the Turkish military. Nearly two-thirds of all generals and admirals were purged and/or jailed on dubious charges with no evidence to support the allegations.

 

Col. Orhan Yıkılkan’s testimony exposing how his computer was tampered with to create incriminating evidence against him: 

Orhan_Yikilkan_computer

 

A police inspection report on the computer used by Yıkılkan at the General Staff stated that he made a Google search for the hotel in the resort city of Marmaris where President Erdoğan was staying on vacation. In his defense statement Yıkılkan proved that he was not even at the headquarters when the alleged Google search was made on his office computer, at 5:21 a.m. Security cameras and computerized entry logs showed he arrived at the General Staff building at 8:01 a.m., three hours after the alleged search. The cell tower signal from Yıkılkan’s mobile phone also proved that he was at home during the time he was alleged to have run the search on the computer.

He also noted that offices in the headquarters are kept locked during the night and are accessible only with the key cards of authorized personnel and that the halls are monitored 24 hours a day by CCTV cameras. The report also claimed that he ran 46 searches in 20 seconds, which Yıkılkan said was simply not possible — for a human to enter terms and run so many searches in such a short period of time. Yıkılkan’s explanation of the inconsistencies in the report was that somebody copied the search logs on his computer long after he was detained. He also questioned the police expert report which stated that the last shutting down of his computer was on May 24, 2016. He said they were ordered to shut down computers in the General Staff when they left their offices every day. He had continued working on his computer until July 15.

In his defense statement at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court on December 4, 2017 Öcal testified under oath that he was the subject of seven background checks in his military career and that no affiliation with any group was ever found. When he was deputy chief of staff of the Land Forces Command, he was alleged to have had ties to the neo-nationalist (ululsacılık) group, but the investigation found someone who harbored leftist views among his family members, and no evidence was uncovered suggesting that he himself was linked to the neo-nationalists. Öcal, his wife and his lawyer repeatedly filed motions asking the court to order the authorities to submit copies of the background checks that were kept at the General Staff to prove his innocence during the trial, but all his motions were rejected.

 

Lt. Col. Hüseyin Hakan Öcal’s testimony, which shows how he was cleared multiple times in background checks: 

HuseyinHakkiOcal_defense

 

Relating to the July 15. 2016 events, Öcal was told that the special forces arrived at General Staff headquarters to provide safety for the headquarters and secure the commanders, especially Chief of General Staff Akar. He and others were told to stay inside their offices, and Akar himself authorized the special forces’ deployment. He further challenged the evidence listed against him in his testimony at a hearing on July 17, 2018, stating that he was not even carrying his sidearm at the General Staff on July 15 because he left the gun at home. Yet the prosecutor claimed he was carrying one. Öcal asked on what evidence the prosecutor based the claim, but no explanation was provided as to how the prosecutor came to that conclusion.

He also revealed a tampering of evidence by investigators when he objected to the authenticity of phone records that allegedly showed him in contact with 71 civilians, during a new deposition on July 11, 2017. He said a phone number that started with area code 532 did not belong to him as he was using a phone with the 542 area code. He later learned after the deposition and when the additional indictment came out that the 532 in the phone records was replaced with the 542 he said he was using. In his testimony in court a year later, he said if he told the investigators that he was using a phone with the 542 area code, they would have doctored the records to reflect that phone number. He said similar attempts were made to tamper with evidence in a bid to incriminate him when no evidence of any wrongdoing was found.

 

Lt. Col. Hüseyin Hakan Öcal’s testimony, which revealed how investigators tampered with phone records to make him appear to be guilty:

Huseyin_Hakan_Ocal_motions

 

Thousands of officers who had nothing to do with the coup attempt or the Gülen movement were purged, prosecuted and jailed in Turkey on dubious charges, with doctored evidence that included many procedural and technical flaws tainting the investigations and hearings. Although the very limited mobilization on July 15 was quickly quashed, the Erdoğan government launched an unprecedented witch hunt that saw two-thirds of all admirals and generals dismissed from NATO’s second largest army on bogus charges. Those purged were replaced by Islamists and neo-nationalists who harbor staunch anti-Western views.

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