Turkey: Over 15,000 Military Officers Suspended Since 2016 Failed Coup

Monday, 21 January, 2019 - 12:15
Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek

Turkish authorities have suspended 15,213 military personnel, including generals and officers of various ranks, since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Following the abortive coup, which has been blamed by Ankara on an organization affiliated with Fathullah Gulen, the authorities have investigated 6,838 officers and military personnel, according to the recently-appointed Defense Ministry spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Nadide Sebnem Aktop.

In the wake of the failed attempt to overthrow the government, the Turkish army witnessed the largest restructuring in its history and became directly subject to the president’s authority.

Ankara says these measures are part of a “purge” against followers of Gulen, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

They broke their ties after corruption and bribery investigations carried out by the security services and the prosecution in late 2013. The cases involved several ministers, their sons, businessmen and senior banking officials close to Erdogan, who at the time was the country’s prime minister.

Gulen has denied the charges, and the West and international human rights groups have said that Erdogan has used the abortive coup as a pretext to quash dissent. 

As part of the campaign, authorities forced a state of emergency for two years until July 19 last year, replaced articles in the country’s anti-terrorism law, arrested 402,000 people, of whom around 80,000 remain in detention, and suspended over 175,000 employees, according to international rights reports.

In a related development, the Turkish prosecutor has issued an indictment against local employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul, Metin Tobuz, who was arrested in October 2017 on suspicion of links to Gulen’s organization.

Topuz’s 78-page indictment stated that he had very close contact with police officers suspected of playing a role in the coup attempt. The document listed Erdogan and former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, among others, as plaintiffs.

Relations between Ankara and Washington have been strained over US support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Turkey’s plan to buy a Russian missile defense system, S-400, and the US jailing of an executive at a Turkish state bank in an Iran sanctions-fleeing case.

Ankara has repeatedly demanded that the United States extradite Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile since 1999.

Topuz, along with two other local consulate employees, remain in jail as does a Turkish-US national and former NASA scientist who faces terrorism charges. Washington wants them freed as Ankara demands the release of Mohammed Hakan Atilla. This has led to a months-long suspension of bilateral visa services.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicated that Turkey is holding more than 160,000 people and suspended even more public servants over alleged links to the attempted coup.

In other news, the Turkish Parliament rejected a proposal to investigate the murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink.

Dink was assassinated in Istanbul on January 19, 2007 by teenage nationalist, Ogun Samast, near the Istanbul-based newspaper Agos.

Dink, whose family and friends celebrated the 12th anniversary of his murder on Saturday, was outspoken about Armenian issues and minority rights. He was prosecuted three times for violating Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to insult the Turkish nation or Turkish institutions. 

Turkish media reported on Sunday that parliament had rejected a proposal of Armenian MP Garo Paylan of the People’s Democratic Party to take up the case of Dink.

Samast was arrested on his way to Trabzon province and later said he didn’t regret his crime. In his testimony, Samast claimed he committed the assassination of Dink on his own after he read in the newspapers accusations against the journalist of insulting the Turkish identity.  

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