A former noncommissioned officer (NCO) has said the 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade was ready to put the Sledgehammer coup plan into operation, but the mastermind behind the coup plan, retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, failed to stage the coup after he had a heart attack in 2003.
Mesut Göğebakan was expelled from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in 2005 where he was serving as a noncommissioned officer. He is now a lawyer in Gaziantep. He said all members of the military who served at the 1st Army in 2003 knew about Doğan's plan for a coup d'état.
Doğan is a prime suspect in the ongoing Sledgehammer cage. The Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan is believed to have been drafted during a military seminar in 2003 by Doğan. It includes a subversive plan to foment chaos in society through bomb attacks at the most frequented mosques in İstanbul, which would eventually lead to a military takeover.
“Everyone at the 1st Army knew that Doğan was planning a coup. A friend of mine in the army said a group of retired generals paid a visit to Doğan and advised him to stage the coup in the hierarchical structure,” Göğebakan stated.
He also recalled that he became a co-plaintiff in the Sledgehammer case after the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment into the coup plan. According to Göğebakan, some military officers tried to deter him from becoming a co-plaintiff in the case. “I did so in order to fight against coup plotters within the limits of the law both on my behalf and on behalf of my friends,” he noted.
Doğan was arrested in April as part of the Sledgehammer investigation, but was released after a brief detention in prison due to health reasons. The retired general was reportedly suffering from a herniated disc and numbness in his legs and was hospitalized for some time in the neurology department of the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA). The Sledgehammer indictment demands up to 20 years in prison for Doğan on charges of a failed attempt to overthrow the government and destroy Parliament.
Göğebakan also said the field commands in the Sarıgazi and Hadımköy neighborhoods in İstanbul were affiliated with the 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, and were waiting for an order by Doğan to stage the coup. “The commands were not on duty at the time, neither for an attack nor for a defense. They were waiting, ready for the coup,” he said.
In the Sledgehammer trial there are 196 suspects, all of whom are active duty and retired members of the military. All 196 suspects are accused of a failed attempt to destroy Parliament and overthrow the government. Such a charge calls for a jail sentence of up to 20 years in prison.