Erdogan acts to take full control of military

Turkish govt announces new wave of expulsions and overhaul of military council

Supporters of Turkey's President Erdogan waving Turkish flags during a pro- government protest in the Germany city of Cologne yesterday.
Supporters of Turkey's President Erdogan waving Turkish flags during a pro- government protest in the Germany city of Cologne yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

ANKARA • Turkey dismissed nearly 1,400 members of its armed forces and stacked the top military council with government ministers yesterday, moves designed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to put him in full control of the military after a failed coup.

The new wave of expulsions and the overhaul of the Supreme Military Council (YAS) were announced in the government's official gazette just hours after Mr Erdogan said late on Saturday he planned to shut down existing military academies and put the armed forces under the command of the Defence Ministry.

According to the gazette, 1,389 military personnel were dismissed for suspected links to Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of orchestrating the July 15-16 failed putsch. Mr Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, has denied the charges and condemned the coup.

Turkey has called on the US to extradite Mr Gulen, but Washington has resisted, without evidence of his involvement in the coup.

The latest dismissals come after an announcement last week that more than 1,700 military personnel had been dishonourably discharged for their role in the putsch, which saw a faction of the armed forces commandeer tanks, helicopters and war planes in an attempt to topple the government.

It was not immediately clear whether the dismissals referred to in yesterday's official gazette included any of those dishonourably discharged previously.

  • 1,389 Number of military personnel sacked for suspected links to Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

    60k People detained, suspended or placed under investigation over suspected links with Mr Gulen.

The government also said its deputy prime ministers and ministers of justice, the interior and foreign affairs would be appointed to the YAS. The prime minister and defence minister were previously the only government representatives on the council.

They will replace a number of military commanders who have not been reappointed to the YAS, including the heads of the First, Second, and Third armies, the Aegean Army and the head of the Gendarmerie security forces, which frequently battle Kurdish militants in the south-east. The changes appear to give the government commanding control of the council.

The dishonourable discharges previously announced included about 40 per cent of Turkey's admirals and generals. So far, more than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and schools have been either detained, suspended or placed under investigation over suspected links with Mr Gulen.

Turkey's Western allies condemned the coup, but have also been rattled by the scale of the resulting crackdown.

Mr Erdogan has said it was "shameful" that Western countries showed more interest in the fate of the plotters than in standing with a fellow Nato member, and has upbraided Western leaders for not visiting after the coup attempt.

Rallies in support of Turkish democracy and against the coup plotters were planned in several European towns and cities yesterday, with the biggest expected in the German city of Cologne. A German court has banned Mr Erdogan from addressing his supporters in Cologne by video link, a move condemned by Turkey. Several smaller counter-demonstrations were also planned.

The government is now going after Mr Gulen's network of schools and other institutions abroad.

Since the coup, Somalia has shut two schools and a hospital believed to have links to Mr Gulen, and other governments have received similar requests from Ankara, although not all have been willing to comply.

In an unexpected move, Mr Erdogan has said that as a one-off gesture, he would drop all lawsuits filed against people for insulting him.

Prosecutors have opened over 1,800 such cases since Mr Erdogan became president in 2014.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Erdogan acts to take full control of military'. Print Edition | Subscribe