Erdogan overhauls military after failed coup attempt

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a new presidential decree Sunday that introduced sweeping changes to Turkey's military in the wake of a July 15 failed coup, bringing the armed forces further under civilian authority.

Another 1,400 military personnel dismissed for suspected links to U.S.-based cleric

Tayyip Erdogan's dishonourable discharges included about 40 per cent of Turkey's admirals and generals. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service/Associated Press)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a new presidential decree Sunday that introduced sweeping changes to Turkey's military in the wake of a July 15 failed coup, bringing the armed forces further under civilian authority.

The decree, the third issued under a three-month state of emergency declared after the attempted coup, gives the president and prime minister the authority to issue direct orders to the commanders of the army, air force and navy.

It also announces the discharge of 1,389 military personnel, including Erdogan's chief military adviser, who had been arrested days after the attempted coup, the chief of general staff's charge d'affaires and the defense minister's chief secretary.

The presidential decree puts the military commands directly under the defense ministry, puts all military hospitals under the authority of the health ministry, and also expands the Supreme Military Council — the body that makes decisions on military affairs and appointments — to include Turkey's deputy prime ministers and its justice, foreign and interior ministers.

The document, published in the official gazette Sunday, also shuts down all military schools, academies and non-commissioned officer training institutes and establishes a new national defense university to train officers.

On Sunday afternoon, thousands held an anti-coup rally in the German city of Cologne, waving Turkish flags and holding banners with Erdogan's picture.

Supporters of Tayyip Erdogan wave Turkish flags during a pro-government demonstration in Cologne, Germany on Sunday. (Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters)

In the wake of the attempted coup, which killed more than 200 people, Erdogan launched a sweeping crackdown on those believed linked to the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of instigating the coup. Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, denies any knowledge of the attempt to overthrow the government.

Thousands arrested

More than 10,000 people have been arrested in the crackdown, most of whom are military personnel. Thousands more have been detained and nearly 70,000 people have been suspended or dismissed from their jobs in the education, media, health care, military and judicial sectors. On Sunday, Turkey's soccer federation said every member of its committees had tendered their resignations "for the well-being of the ongoing security investigation."

In an interview Saturday with private A Haber television, Erdogan said he also wanted to put the country's MIT intelligence agency and the chief of general staff's headquarters under the presidency.

"If we can pass this small constitution package ... then the chief of general staff and MIT will be tied to the president," Erdogan told A Haber.

The package would need to be brought to parliament for a vote.

The government's crackdown has caused concern among the country's Western allies, who have urged restraint. Turkey has demanded the speedy extradition of Gulen from the United States, but Washington has asked for evidence he was involved in the attempted coup and says the U.S. extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

Erdogan has also strongly criticized U.S. military officials for comments he said implied that the detention of Turkish military officers as part of the coup investigation could affect the country's fight against the Islamic State group.

The U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joe Dunford, was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Turkey on Monday, the prime minister's office said.

Strained relationship with Germany

Turkey's relations with Germany are also coming under strain, with Ankara demanding its crackdown on the Gulen movement extend to Gulen-affiliated schools in Germany, and seeking the extradition of members of the judiciary believed to have ties to the movement who are in Germany.

Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin criticized a decision by German authorities not to permit messages from politicians in Turkey to be shown on a video screen Sunday at the anti-coup rally that drew about 20,000 people.

Germany's highest court rejected a bid Saturday night to reverse local judges' ruling that a screen at the Cologne event couldn't be used to show addresses from outside speakers — a decision that Turkey says prevented an address by Erdogan.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said there's "no place in Germany" for any side to "bring domestic political tensions from Turkey to us in Germany and intimidate people with other political convictions."

Germany has a sizeable population of people with Turkish roots.

In a series of tweets, Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik criticized the German court decision as going "against freedom of speech and right to assembly" and said it was "such a shame to see that EU fails in upholding democracy and showing solidarity with a candidate country in the face of a coup threat."

Turkey has been seeking to join the European Union for decades, although its efforts have been near moribund for years.

Also Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu demanded the 28-nation EU say exactly when Turkish citizens will be granted visa-free entry and added that, if the rules aren't loosened, Ankara will back off a deal to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.


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