Turkish authorities secretly investigated employees of a US defense contractor that provides maintenance services and handles day-to-day base operations at Incirlik Air Base in southern Adana province, according to documents that were part of a criminal investigation into a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
In one document it was seen that Turkish prosecutors obtained entry and exit records for İncirlik Air Base for July 14 and 15, 2016 and looked into names that appeared in the logs, which listed, among others, dozens of employees working for Vectrus, an American contractor based in the US state of Colorado.
The wide net cast by prosecutors in the investigation looked more like a fishing expedition and appears to have been designed to help feed into the false narrative of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which claimed that the US was the mastermind behind the abortive putsch, although there has been no evidence presented to support that claim.
Dozens of names in the 48-page entry and exit log for the Air Force’s 10th Tanker Base Command at İncirlik show that both US nationals as well as local Turkish employees were caught in the net. The records were compiled by Selim Kayaalp, a lieutenant with the bureau section for operations and training.
Another document, stamped secret and signed by chief sergeant Erkan Boyaci, indicated that the records were handed over to a team authorized by the prosecutor’s office in Adana. The document, entered as evidence into the case file on October 14, 2016, reveals that not only the logs but also CCTV footage in and around İncirlik Air Base were turned over to the prosecutor.
It is not clear what happened to these logs and records in the end as the paper trail does not show how that evidence was assessed and factored into the investigation by Turkish authorities in Adana province, where İncirlik Air Base is located.
Part of the logs at İncirlik Air Base that show time-stamped entry and exit records for employees of Vectrus:incirlik_access_logs_Vectrus_Redacted
Vectrus made headlines in Turkey in January 2020 when it fired 424 employees, nearly half of its workforce at İncirlik. The dismissals were said to be related to a local contract dispute.
This was not the first time US troops and civilian contractors who had no role in the July 15 coup attempt were investigated by Turkish authorities who pursued malicious prosecutions against many who had nothing to do with the putschist attempt.
Nordic Monitor previously published government documents confirming that US troops and contractors were investigated by Turkish prosecutors in multiple provinces over meetings and assignments that were not related to the coup.
On one occasion anti-Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) operations involving US military personnel in Turkey were reviewed on the suspicion that they might have been involved in the failed coup. In another instance, a Turkish prosecutor launched a criminal investigation into US officials and American defense contractor Lockheed Martin representatives over meetings on July 12-13 that dealt with part of a modernization program for Turkish F-16 fighter jets.
The allegations that the US was involved in the attempt were made publicly by Turkish government officials at various times. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu accused the US of orchestrating the coup on July 16 while events were still unfolding. He repeated the same allegation on a number of occasions, saying that vocal Erdoğan critic Fethullah Gülen lacked the capability of mounting such an attempt.
The government accuses Gülen, a 79-year-old cleric who has been living in the US since 1999, of being behind the failed coup although no evidence has been presented to prove the claim. Gülen himself denied playing any role and asked for an international inquiry to ascertain the real perpetrators, a proposal that Erdoğan declined.
Secret document showing CCTV footage at Incirlik Air Base was also handed over to the prosecutor’s office:Incirlik_air_base_logs_turned_over
Turkish government officials raised the possibility of shutting down İncirlik Air Base amid growing differences with the US on a number of issues including the Erdoğan government’s purchase of long-range missiles from Russia and Turkish military operations in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.
In February 2016 Erdoğan’s then-aide and now chief ombudsman Şeref Malkoç claimed İncirlik might be closed to the Americans. Incidentally, Malkoç’s son-in-law is Abdurrahman Gül, the current justice minister who was designated under sanctions by the US Treasury for his role in the wrongful detention and prosecution of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
In August 2017 Burhan Kuzu, an Erdoğan advisor and member of his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), asked prosecutors to investigate NATO and the İncirlik base over the failed coup. In January 2018 Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on government TV network TRT that he had delivered to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the Turkish people’s demands regarding İncirlik during a meeting in Vancouver.
In February 2018 Çavuşoğlu repeated the same threats and said the Turkish people demanded the termination of US access to both the İncirlik base and the Kürecik radar station. In May 2018 he took it further and threatened the US with similar action if normalization efforts between the US and Turkey failed.
In July 2018 Erdoğan for the first time raised the issue of closing İncirlik Air Base to the Americans, followed by similar comments from his neo-nationalist ally Doğu Perinçek.
Echoing remarks from top government officials, Turkey’s partisan judiciary took seriously a criminal complaint against several high-ranking US generals filed in 2018 by members of an organized crime syndicate called Tay-Der, a thuggish group that serves at the pleasure of Erdoğan. The group filed a motion with the prosecutor’s office asking authorities to arrest Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command; retired US Army Gen. John F. Campbell; and Air Force Brig. Gen. Rick Boutwell, director of regional affairs, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force. US officers Col. John C. Walker, Col. Michael H. Manion, Col. David Eaglen, Col. David Trucksa, Lt. Col. Timothy J. Cook, Lt. Col. Mack R. Coker, Sgt. Thomas S. Cooper, Sgt. Vegas M. Clark and others deployed to İncirlik Airbase were also named in the brief.
With the unprecedented purge of over 4,000 judges and prosecutors and their replacement by partisan, Islamist and neo-nationalist candidates in 2016, Turkish prosecutors and judges are seen as political whips in the hands of the government, which often abuses the criminal justice system to intimidate critics at home and convey political messages to foreign governments.
Many believe the limited military mobilization in 2016 was a false flag operation orchestrated by Erdoğan himself to consolidate more power in his hands, push the Turkish military into operations in Syria and Libya and prosecute his opponents on fabricated criminal charges.