Four years on, key questions about Turkey's July 15 coup attempt remain unanswered

Four years after the attempted takeover, a number of crucial questions remain unanswered, especially on former army chief Hulusi Akar and MİT chief Hakan Fidan. "Erdoğan protected Akar and Fidan in an incomprehensible manner. The fact that these two officials made an evaluation mistake caused a lot of people to get killed or wounded," journalist Mehmet Yılmaz told Duvar English.

Neşe İdil / Duvar English

Four years have passed since the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt that shocked Turkey, with a number of key questions on how it was staged remaining unanswered.

The takeover bid, widely believed to have been orchestrated by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, began at around 9 p.m. and was thwarted the next day mainly with the efforts of the people who poured to the streets upon President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's call.

Over 250 people died and scores of others were wounded when confronting coup soldiers on the streets.

Although the government says it hails democracy against coups, the four years following the takeover attempt saw grave human rights abuses, especially during the state of emergency rule that lasted for two years.

Critics repeatedly say that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been using the coup as a tool to silence all critical voices under the guise of fighting Gülenists, who were once the closest allies of Erdoğan and the government.

The Gülenists, whose official name is the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), managed to infiltrate into state institutions for many years through its close links to the AKP.

The government, which deems the day a "milestone," continues to ignore questions surrounding Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who was the army chief at the time, and National Intelligence Agency (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan.

MİT chief Hakan Fidan (L) and then-army chief Hulusi Akar are seen in this file photo.

Akar and Fidan have also been refraining from answering questions. The fact that they didn't testify at a parliamentary commission formed to investigate the coup attempt added to the questions surrounding them.

Here are some of the questions that remain unanswered on the coup that was branded as "God's favor" by Erdoğan.

Major O.K.'s notice

One of the most key figures in the coup attempt was a major, who was identified only by his initials as O.K.

Media reports following the coup bid revealed that Major O.K. went to the MİT headquarters in the capital Ankara at around 2:30 p.m. on July 15 to notify the officials of the Gülenists' takeover plans.

The major told the MİT officials that there were plans to abduct Fidan, who then headed to the General Staff headquarters to notify Akar of the incident.

Akar then ordered the closure of Turkey's airspace to all military flights, while Fidan returned to the MİT headquarters at 8:20 p.m. to have dinner with Moaz al-Khatib, a Syrian opposition figure, and Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez.

Strikingly, no one informed Erdoğan or then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on the tip-off.

Commenting on Major O.K.'s notice, prominent journalist Mehmet Yılmaz said that there was a weakness in evaluating the intel received.

"If Akar and Fidan evaluated it as a coup attempt, the takeover bid could've been prevented," Yılmaz told Duvar English, adding that the high-level commanders who testified at the parliamentary commission voiced the same belief.

"If the army chief had ordered all officers to remain in the barracks, the officers loyal to the chain of command could have thwarted the coup inside the barracks," he also said.

According to Yılmaz, the soldiers in the barracks that were commanded that night by soldiers loyal to the chain of command didn't participate in the coup attempt.

"If the order to remain inside the barracks were issued, Gülenists wouldn't be able to stage a coup in such a reckless manner," he said.

Questions surrounding Akar, Fidan

Holding the two most critical posts on the night of the thwarted coup, Akar and Fidan's failure to testify at the parliamentary commission is still a subject of debate regarding the coup attempt.

The reason for why Major O.K.'s notice was ignored remains a mystery to this day.

"If Akar and Fidan had testified at the commission, we could have learned the reasons for why they didn't evaluate this notice as a sign of a coup bid," Yılmaz said.

"Not only this, but we also could have learned why the president and the prime minister were not informed about this notice," he added.

Why weren't President, PM informed?

The fact that President Erdoğan and former PM Yıldırım weren't informed on the coup suspicions was a surprise to many after the attempted takeover.

The first time that Fidan tried to reach Erdoğan, who was on a holiday in Marmaris, was at around 10 p.m., which is seven hours later than Major O.K.'s tip-off.

According to the MİT, Fidan only spoke with Erdoğan's chief guard and didn't mention any coup attempt being underway.

Days after the botched coup, Erdoğan said that he learned about the takeover bid from his brother-in-law and tried to reach Fidan for hours, but couldn't do so.

Yıldırım, who was also uninformed about the takeover attempt, later said that he reached the MİT chief at around 10:30 p.m.

Then-PM Binali Yıldırım (C) is seen visiting damaged parts of Turkish parliament in Ankara.

"Things are normal. We're working," Fidan told Yıldırım when asked about the coup.

Diyanet head Görmez also said that Fidan didn't tell him anything about the coup attempt during their dinner and that he left MİT headquarters at 10 p.m.

The wedding

In the early hours of the takeover bid, high-level commanders of the Air Force were at the wedding of the daughter of Mehmet Şanver, then-commander of Eskişehir Combatant Air Unit, in Istanbul's Moda.

The wedding was raided by coup plotters and the commanders were taken hostage.

Although Akar ordered Turkey's airspace to be closed to military flights, none of the Air Force commanders were notified of the decision, paving the way for them to continue their plans to attend the wedding.

"If Akar and Fidan had testified, we could have learned why Akar didn't warn the Air Force Commander," Yılmaz said.

Erdoğan's protection of Akar, Fidan

Although Erdoğan wasn't notified about the coup bid and failed to reach Fidan on such a critical night, his support for both figures remains as strong as ever.

Akar was appointed defense minister after the coup, while Fidan is still the head of the MİT.

"Erdoğan protected Akar and Fidan in an incomprehensible manner. The fact that these two officials made an evaluation mistake caused a lot of people to get killed or wounded," Yılmaz said.

"It's hard to understand that one of these two figures who misjudged the notice was appointed defense minister, while the other also remains on duty," he also said.

Erdoğan's supporters are seen in this photo dated July 17, 2016.