ANKARA Ñ Turkey's new government has expressed opposition to a
military purge of suspected Islamic fundamentalists.
Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul have
complained that the military's purge of suspected Islamic officers is
unconstitutional and must be reviewed.
A special council frequently reviews cases of officers suspected of having Islamic or leftist leanings, Middle East Newsline reported.
In December, the Supreme Military Council expelled several Turkish
officers accused of being supporters of Islamic fundamentalism or of groups
described as extremist. It was the first such meeting by the council under
the new Islamic-oriented government led by Gul.
Gul upheld the dismissals by the council but expressed criticism of the
process. Later, Deputy Prime Minister Ertugrul Yalcinbayir called on the
council to open the process of expelling officers to judicial review.
Yalcinbayir said his appeal was not meant to criticize or defend
extremism in the military. But he said those officers accused of being
extremists have the right to a fair trial.
"The military has its own discipline and everybody should obey this
discipline," Yalcinbayir said. "If a soldier is expelled from the military,
we cannot deprive him of his right to apply to the court."
The criticism was the first issued by the new government. Civilian
officials have rarely criticized or intervened in the affairs of the
powerful military in Turkey.
Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok objected to the reservation
expressed by Gul and Gonul over the dismissals in the military. Ozkok said
the authority of the Supreme Military Council is defined by the constitution
and that any such reservation could encourage what he termed extremists.
'This exceptional situation no doubt encouraged those members of the
military who are involved in reactionary actions," Ozkok said on Wednesday.
Officials said the new government has succeeded in obtaining a civilian
observer in proceedings by the Supreme Military Council. The observer
attended a meeting of the council in late December in which six soldiers
were expelled from the military.
But Gul quickly backed off from pursuing any dispute with military
leaders. He said his government is occupied with the prospect of a U.S.-led
war against Iraq.
"These issues are delicate, and I know when to talk about them," Gul
said. "Now's not the time."