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Turkish Leader Brings Military More under Civilian Authority

The document, published in the official gazette Sunday, also shuts down all military schools, academies and non-commissioned officer training institutes

People take photos with their phones at the iconic Galata Tower, illuminated in Turkish flag colors, in Istanbul, Saturday, July 30, 2016, photo: AP/Petros Karadjias
1 year ago

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 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 following 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 Erdoğan’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.

It puts the military commands directly under the defense ministry, puts all military hospitals under the authority of the health ministry instead of the military, 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.

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

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.

In an interview Saturday with private A Haber television, Erdoğan 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 with [the opposition parties], then the chief of general staff and MIT will be tied to the president,” Erdoğan told A Haber.

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

The Turkish government’s sweeping crackdown has caused concern among its Western allies, who have urged restraint. Turkey has demanded the speedy extradition of Gülen from the United States, but Washington has asked for evidence that he was involved in the attempted coup and has said the US extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

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

Erdoğan 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 in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Turkish media said the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joe Dunford, was to visit Turkey on Sunday night and was likely to visit Incirlik air base in the country’s south.

Erdoğan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin criticized a decision by German authorities not to permit messages from politicians in Turkey to be shown on a video screen at a Sunday anti-coup rally in the German city of Cologne that was expected to draw up to 30,000 people.

“As the president of the nation that has penned an epic tale of heroism by defeating Fethullah Gülen’s coup attempt, we are curious what the real reason is behind why German local courts and the Constitutional Court have prevented Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s message, and hope German officials will provide a satisfactory explanation,” Kalin said in a statement.

Police in Cologne say Turkey’s sports minister is expected to attend Sunday’s rally, but authorities imposed the condition that no messages from speakers elsewhere, such as politicians in Turkey, could be shown on a video screen. Germany’s highest court rejected a complaint against that ban Saturday night.

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.

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