Skip to main content

EXCLUSIVE: Turkish coup plot planned well in advance, document suggests

List seen by MEE shows which military officers and officials were set to run critical positions if coup succeeded
List showing Turkish officials, with names intentionally blurred, who were to be appointed in post-coup government (MEE)

ISTANBUL, Turkey - A list reportedly found in the pocket of a colonel suggests highly detailed planning was involved in the failed coup attempt launched in Turkey on Friday night.

The lengthy list, seen by Middle East Eye, designates military officers who were set to take over the running of critical posts once the coup was successful.

Positions mentioned on the list include those of treasury undersecretary, Turkish Airlines general manager, managers for Istanbul’s two airports, managers for the state-run broadcaster TRT and news agency Anadolu, the Ankara mayor’s post, head of police and interior minister among many others.

The majority of the names chosen for appointments are drawn from the country's air force and the gendarmerie. Factions from within these two forces were the ones most heavily involved in the coup attempt.

The list also included changes to positions within the military establishment.

Government officials say that followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States, are behind this attempted coup.

Gulen, a former ally turned foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), became the government’s public enemy number one they tried to implicate Erdogan and his close circle in corruption allegations.

One of the names on the list, Mikail Gullu, a military attache at the Turkish embassy in Kuwait, was arrested at Damman airport in Saudi Arabia on Sunday following a request from Ankara and is expected to be deported shortly.

Gullu appears on the list as the designated general manager of the state-owned armament development and production factory.

Among other high-profile names on the list is Sercan Gurcan, and colonel and commander of the gendarmerie in Istanbul province.

Gurcan’s daughter has taken to Twitter to vociferously protest her father’s innocence and even claims he was actually targeted by pro-Gulen elements and implicated in a 2009 ultra-nationalist coup plot known as Ergenekon.

At the time, Gulen and his supporters were allies of the ruling AKP and it is believed that Gulenists in key positions in the police and judiciary were heavily involved in pushing the Ergenekon cases towards conviction.

In April 2016, 275 people tried in the case had their convictions quashed by the Turkish High Court of Appeals that said it could not prove the plot actually existed. 

Murat Yesiltas, director of security studies at the pro-government think-tank SETA, insists the list found on Col. Kose’s body is genuine and said any seeming discrepancy was because multiple groups were involved in the coup attempt.

“The main ring leaders of the attempted coup were Gulen-linked people. But there were also other cliques that were involved to some extent. So it is normal to see names that might not necessarily be linked to Gulen,” Yesiltas told Middle East Eye.

Sceptics are also casting doubt on this extremely quick emergence of evidence implicating the putschists and have also questioned the legality and soundness behind the arrests of more than 6,000 people since Friday.

A government official said the arrest of such a large number of people is not surprising because people with links to the Gulen movement and illegal activities were being monitored for a long time before the coup.

“The government knew something was going on but thought any idea of an attempted coup was far-fetched. We designated the Gulen movement as terrorist a few years back and have been keeping tabs on them,” the official said.

Hikmet Cicek, a journalist at the left-wing newspaper Aydinlik, who was imprisoned for five years on the charge of plotting a coup as part of Ergenekon, said he believed the list to be authentic.

“There are elements to this story that seem unrealistic like a colonel carrying a list in his pocket, but that doesn’t mean it is fabricated. It only means that the coup plan was poorly implemented,” Cicek told MEE.

He added that the Gulen movement had a past record of failure due to panicking and moving plots forward.

He pointed to the example of the events of 17 and 25 December, 2013, when the AKP government faced a corruption-related sting operation as another example of a Gulen-linked move gone wrong.

He said even back then the idea was to conduct the operation before the 30 March 2014 local elections, but it was moved forward.

“People are doubtful because of the suddenness and the arrest of so many people - but I don’t believe it."

Following these large scale arrests and operations there is very little chance of another military attempt to topple the government in the coming days and weeks, said Yesiltas.

Almost every single person designated on this appointment list is now behind bars, the official said.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.