Thursday, July 28, 2016

Turkey's Top Military Commander Keeps Post
JULY 28, 2016, 3:34 P.M. E.D.T.

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's top military commander, who was held hostage during an attempted coup, kept his post Thursday, while the general who served as acting chief of staff was promoted following a purge in the military following the failed putsch.

Hulusi Akar, a four-star general, retained his position as chief of staff, the presidency announced after a meeting of the Supreme Military Council, representing the commanders of NATO's second largest army.

The decisions came after Turkey discharged nearly 1,700 officers, including 149 generals and admirals, suspected of involvement in the July 15 attempted coup. A senior Turkish official described the actions as "dishonorable discharges."

Gen. Umit Dundar, the commander of Turkey's Istanbul-based first army, was promoted to second-in-command of the military staff, an apparent reward for declaring publicly that the coup attempt was not backed by the chain of command and for taking the lead while Akar was held captive.

The council, which determines promotions and retirements, met for five hours Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Two generals resigned as the meeting convened.

Turkey has declared a state of emergency following the failed coup that caused 290 deaths. Its clampdown seeks to target anyone suspected of ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government accuses of masterminding the plot.

Nearly 16,000 people were detained over alleged links to the uprising, about half of whom were formally arrested to face trial.

Tens of thousands of state employees also have been dismissed for alleged ties to Gulen while schools, dormitories and hospitals associated with his movement have been closed down. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Thursday that 88 employees of his ministry have lost their jobs, including two ambassadors.

The chief prosecutor's office in Ankara called Thursday for the seizure of assets held by approximately 3,000 detained judges and prosecutors, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

And authorities issued warrants for the detention of 89 journalists. Dozens of media organizations, mostly linked to Gulen, were ordered to close Wednesday night.

Gulen, who lives in the United States and runs a global network of schools and foundations, has denied any involvement in the coup plot. Turkey has branded Gulen's movement a terrorist organization and wants the cleric extradited. The United States has told Turkey to present evidence against him and let the U.S. extradition process take its course.

Cavusoglu warned allies that relations would sour if they refuse to cooperate with Turkey's extradition requests.

In an interview with CNN Turk television Thursday, Cavusoglu criticized Germany's slow response to Ankara's request for the extradition of several alleged members of the Gulen movement.

"Some judges and prosecutors with ties to the Gulen movement have fled to Germany. Germany must return them," Cavusoglu said.

The foreign minister said anti-U.S. sentiment in Turkey was on the rise and a refusal to extradite Gulen would harm relations.

He said Turkey had received intelligence that Gulen might flee to another country, so the foreign ministry was issuing "necessary warnings."

Turkey's post-coup purge has raised concerns throughout Europe.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was "right and important" for Turkey to pursue the coup plotters.

"But in a state of law ... the principle of proportionality applies," she told reporters. "This principle of proportionality must be respected under all circumstances. And my concern arises from the fact (authorities) are moving very hard and this principle of proportionality is perhaps not always at the center."

Before the military council meeting, the prime minister and top brass visited the Ankara mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder, where they vowed to overcome all security threats.

"There is no doubt that we will eradicate all terrorist organizations threatening our state, our nation and our territorial integrity," Yildirim said, reading from a message he wrote in the mausoleum visitors' book.

The military council meeting had been scheduled for early August but was brought forward following the coup attempt. Its location was moved from the military headquarters to the prime minister's office in a sign that the government intends to place the military under stronger civilian control.

Late Wednesday, the government issued a decree that transferred control of the paramilitary police force and the coast guard from the military to the government's Interior Ministry.

Turkish officials have said they believe the coup plot was launched in haste because of the planned August military council meeting, when many officers suspected of links to Gulen would have been discharged.

Associated Press reporters Elena Becatoros and Cinar Kiper in Istanbul and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.

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