Turkey announces military decisions, suspects retain posts for another year

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TODAYSZAMAN

 

In what could be seen as an interim solution to the ongoing controversy over the situation of 14 senior military officers, who are all currently jailed over their suspected involvement in a coup plan but were expecting promotion, Turkey’s Supreme Military Council (YA?) has decided to extend their assignments and allow them to stay at their posts an extra year.
Turkey’s top military brass has finally been confirmed as the four-day YA? meeting was concluded on Thursday and the council’s decisions were approved by President Abdullah Gül. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an visited military headquarters in the morning to sign off on the promotion decisions, which were presented to President Gül at 11 a.m.

According to the decisions as announced by Gül’s press and public relations advisor, Ahmet Sever, Gen. Necdet Özel has been appointed Turkey’s new military chief while Gen. Hayri K?vr?ko?lu is the country’s new Land Forces commander and Adm. Emin Murat Bilgel is Naval Forces commander. Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu has been appointed the head of the Gendarmerie General Command while Gen. Mehmet Erten has been appointed Air Force commander. Reports said Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Aslan Güner — remembered for refusing to shake the hand of President Gül’s headscarved wife, Hayrünnisa Gül, during an official ceremony — was appointed the commander of the War Academies.

Aegean Army Corp Commander Nusret Ta?deler, for whom a prosecutor recently demanded an arrest warrant as part of an investigation into websites allegedly set up by the military to disseminate anti-government propaganda, was appointed the head of the Education and Doctrine Command (EDOK) in Ankara. Gen. Yalç?n Ataman was assigned to the 1st Army Corps Command while Gen. Ahmet Turmu? was assigned to the 3rd Army Corps Command. Gen. Abdullah Atay was assigned as the head of the Aegean Army Corps Command.

The YA? decisions were long a matter of curiosity as this year’s YA? convened with many pressing items on its agenda. The meeting began on the heels of a decision by Chief of General Staff Gen. I??k Ko?aner and three commanders to step down in protest of the government’s opposition to promote officers who are coup suspects.

There are currently 41 active duty generals and admirals who are in jail on coup charges and 14 of them were in line for a promotion. Contrary to claims that the 14 officers would be either suspended or forced to retire, the top military council chose to extent their assignment for another year. The proposal to extend their assignments were reportedly made by Gen. Özel, who attended the meeting as the acting chief of General Staff after he was appointed by Gül to temporarily head the military after Ko?aner’s resignation.

A total of 195 suspects, all retired and active duty members of the armed forces, are implicated in the ongoing “Sledgehammer case,” a suspected coup plan devised at a military gathering in 2003 that allegedly sought to undermine the government in order to lay the groundwork for a military takeover. More senior military personnel were recently arrested and have been jailed on charges of links to the subversive coup plan.

The government is against the promotion of Sledgehammer suspects who are active Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) members on the grounds that the TSK’s official policy bans the promotion of officers on trial. Article 65 of the Law on TSK Staff stipulates that a member of the military who is imprisoned or is being tried cannot be promoted. The same article also gives the defense minister the right to suspend officers who face more than five years’ imprisonment.

Turkey’s new military chief: Gen. Özel

The 61-year-old Gen. Özel, who was serving at the Gendarmerie General Command when he was appointed Land Forces commander and acting chief of General Staff last week after the resignations of four top commanders, will serve as Turkey’s military chief until 2015. The general is known for his strong democratic credentials and has shied away from interfering in politics throughout his career. For many observers, his appointment marks the end of an era during which top military commanders saw themselves as self-appointed guardians of the regime and often in opposition to democratically elected governments in Turkey.


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