The Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan carried out a “controlled coup attempt” against itself for the purpose of justifying the comprehensive crackdown that ensued, according to explosive new charges leveled at Ankara Monday by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.
Kilicdaroglu made the remarks Monday in a working breakfast with the heads of several Turkish television stations. According to the CHP leader, the alleged coup was actually orchestrated by 180 people within the Erdogan government who plotted the course of events over an encrypted messaging app called ByLock.
The accusations provoked a furious response from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, with Erdogan accusing the opposition leader of lying and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim remarking that the accusation insulted the “martyrs” defending the government from forces behind the abortive overthrow that took place on the night of July 15, 2016.
The coup was the result of a rebellion within the Turkish military that seized control of the country and declared an end to the reign of President Erdogan. Within hours, the coup was defeated.
Following the failure of the coup, Ankara launched a fierce wave of arrests aimed at neutralizing those who allegedly played a role in the attempt, which was blamed on the Islamist Gulen movement founded by Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Gulen has denied the allegation that his movement — derisively dubbed the Fethullah Terrorist Organization, or FETO — played a role in the attempted seizure of power.
Kilicdaroglu, however, claimed in his remarks that the country's secret service knows who the “controlled coup” plotters within the government were.
“These ByLock users should be revealed. If this list is going to be kept secret, then it indicates that July 15 was a controlled coup. (Meaning that) they (the authorities) had information about the coup in advance,” Kilicdaroglu further said, adding that the testimonies given by arrested FETO members “also strengthen the view that it was a controlled coup.”
According to security experts, ByLock is an amateurishly-designed application that contains gaping security holes, leaving important information unencrypted.
The CHP leader claims to have “compiled a special dossier” on the alleged auto-coup but hasn't released details yet, provoking a furious response from Erdogan.
“If you have a dossier then out with it!” the Turkish leader demanded at a televised rally, adding, “But it's a big lie.”
Since the failed coup, tens of thousands of people have faced arrest for their connection to the Gulen organization. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations. In thousands of cases, use of the ByLock app was considered as proof of affiliation with FETO. The crackdown was also extended to opposition Kurdish politicians.
The accusations come as over 58 million Turkish citizens head to the polls for a referendum that would extend President Erdogan's powers as the country continues to pursue counter-insurgency operations against the large Kurdish minority and a refugee crisis largely exacerbated by Turkish support for “regime change” in Syria.