Turkey's military defies Ankara, fires Islamist officers

Monday, August 9, 2004

ANKARA Turkey's military has defied Ankara's pro-Islamic government and fired 12 officers for links to Islamic insurgency groups.

A statement by the General Staff said the military dismissed 12 officers for what it termed "undisciplined" behavior during a three-day meeting by the Supreme Military Council. The term has often been used for officers deemed as aligned with or sympathetic to Islamic or Kurdish insurgency movements, Middle East Newsline reported.

The new government is led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul who was convicted of inciting religious hatred, and was banned from running in the elections on grounds that he does not support Turkey's secular constitution. He overcame that background after his Islamic Justice and Development Party prevailed in the election of Nov. 3, 2002.

The election threw a wrench into U.S. plans to use Turkey as a staging ground for it 2003 campaign against Iraq.

The NTV news channel said most of the 12 were accused of links to Islamic or Kurdish insurgency groups. The military statement did not elaborate.

The government has objected to the dismissal of officers suspected of Islamic ties without the right to defend themselves in court. Over the last two years, Turkish political leaders have protested the dismissals.

Still, the number of dismissals from the military on the basis of Islamic or Kurdish affiliation has been reduced over the last few years. In the 1990s, scores of officers were fired annually for being deemed sympathizers of Islamic insurgency groups or the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK.

The military also announced senior appointments during the council session. They included the selection of Gen. Yasar Buyukanit to head the Land Forces Command. Gen. Fevzi Turkeri was chosen to head the Gendarmarie, the paramilitary force.

Turkish analysts said the appointment of Buyukanit appointment paved his way to become the next chief of staff. Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok was expected to retire in 2006.

Under the decisions announced by the council, Land Forces Command chief Gen. Aytac Yalman, Gendarmerie commander Gen. Mehmet Sener Eruygur and Third Army commander Gen. Oktar Ataman will retire on Aug. 30. Adm. Ozden Ornek will continue to command the navy and Gen. Halil Ibrahim Firtina will remain air force chief.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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