Prosecutors in Turkey have identified a “second mastermind” of the July 15 coup attempt, they announced Wednesday.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office identified businessman Kemal Batmaz as second-most senior figure behind the attempt to overthrow the government.
Batmaz, the former director general of Kaynak Paper Inc., was arrested shortly after July 15 and remains in custody, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
He was allegedly spotted at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport as he accompanied Adil Oksuz, said to be the coup’s main leader in Turkey, during a trip to the U.S. to visit Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) leader Fetullah Gulen just days before the failed coup.
During the night of July 15, Batmaz was again spotted with Oksuz at the Akinci air base, which was used as a headquarters by the coup plotters. Jets took off from the base to bomb Ankara and senior military officers were held prisoner there.
Prosecutors also identified Harun Binis, a former staff member with the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA), as a prominent coup supporter. He is said to have been the person who would have arranged communication between Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Gulen after the military chief was abducted by pro-coup soldiers.
After he was taken to Akinci, Akar was offered the chance to speak to Gulen as the plotters tried to convince him to side with them. He refused.
According to the statement, Binis worked as a technical expert at ICTA, which regulates Turkey’s telecoms sector and was also seen at Akinci on the night of the coup attempt.
He was arrested after the coup bid and remains in custody.
All three men -- Oksuz, Batmuz and Binis -- have claimed they went to Kazan, the area that includes Akinci, on July 15 to look at land they were considering buying. The district has since been named Kahramankazan in honor of civilians who were martyred as they attempted to stop the coup plotters.
According to prosecutors, Binis told them: “I went to Kazan, which I later learned was one of the most complicated places in during the coup attempt, because I had already made an appointment with my friends.
“For this reason, I went to look at the land without considering what my wife said about the [night’s] events.”
Oksuz, who was an assistant theology professor at Sakarya University, is said to be the main organizer of the coup in Turkey as the “imam” of the Turkish Air Force.
According to coup plotters who confessed following their arrests, FETO appointed “imams” to orchestrate military officers tied to the group.
Oksuz was arrested at Akinci on the night of July 15 but later released after being briefly interviewed by judges and remains at large. The government has offered a reward of up to 4 million Turkish liras ($1.3 million) for information leading to his arrest. He is one of 37 FETO fugitives still on the loose.
The prosecutor’s office said six other suspects accused of accompanying Oksuz on visits to the U.S. in March and June had been apprehended Wednesday. The suspects allegedly rented houses in Ankara in preparation for the coup. Police are looking for another six suspects linked directly to Oksuz.
The Turkish government accuses Gulen of masterminding the defeated coup, which left 246 people martyred.