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  Turkey overhauls top military council

Turkey overhauls top military council

REUTERS/AFP
Published : Aug 1, 2016, 5:18 am IST
Updated : Aug 1, 2016, 5:18 am IST

A Turkish protester holds a banner, reading “Erdogan is a hero of democracy,” during a demonstration in Cologne, Germany. (Photo: AP)

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 TURK1.jpg

A Turkish protester holds a banner, reading “Erdogan is a hero of democracy,” during a demonstration in Cologne, Germany. (Photo: AP)

Turkey dismissed nearly 1,400 members of its armed forces and stacked the top military council with government ministers on Sunday, moves designed by President 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.

It comes 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 warplanes in an attempt to topple the government.

Mr Erdogan said he wanted to introduce constitutional changes to bring the Turkish spy agency and military Chief of Staff directly under his control after the failed coup.

“We are going to introduce a small constitutional package (to Parliament) which, if approved, will bring the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and chief of staff under the control of the presidency,” he told A-Haber television in an interview on Saturday.

The government would need support from Opposition parties to push through the shift as a super majority of two-thirds of deputies is needed to make constitutional changes.

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

Mr Erdogan has said 237 people were killed and more than 2,100 wounded in the coup attempt.

The government also said its deputy prime ministers and ministers of justice, the interior and foreign affairs would be appointed to 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 have given 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 Gulen.

Rallies in support of Turkish democracy were planned in several European towns and cities on Sunday, with the biggest expected in the German city of Cologne. Turkish television showed demonstrators in Cologne waving flags and portraits of Mr Erdogan.

Location: Turkey, Istanbul