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Monday, January 19, 2009

Tensions building in Turkey between the miliary and Islamist government

ANKARA — Turkey's military has upped the ante in a showdown with the government over an investigation of an alleged coup plot against Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.   

For the first time, the military's General Staff has criticized the investigation of an alleged coup plot by former senior commanders. More than 120 people, including secular critics of the Erdogan government, have been arrested or prosecuted on charges of terrorism.

"Basic human rights and principles of law are being breached, like the constitutional principle of nobody is guilty unless found so by a court, or the principle of innocence and right to a fair trial," Brig. Gen. Metin Gurak, spokesman for the General Staff, told a news conference on Jan. 16. "The precarious situation created by people who are expected to be more responsible damages institutions, the judiciary and the state."

Senior officers and their secular allies have asserted that Erdogan was using police and prosecutors to pursue his critics, Middle East Newsline reported. They pointed out that one of those arrested was a senior prosecutor who had warned that Erdogan was forming an Islamic dictatorship.

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"Turkey has one army, and if they destroy it then Turkey will no longer be Turkey," former Turkish Chief of Staff [Ret.] Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu said.

One of those charged has been [Ret.] Gen. Ismail Hakki Karadayi, chief of staff between 1994 and 1998. Karadayi said the allegations against him and other former officers could be linked to Turkish military operations in Iraq and Greece in 1995 and 1996.

"These allegations are nonsense," Karadayi told the Turkish daily Milliyet. "Allegations may have resulted as we completed those operations successfully. However, we carried out our task, I do not regret anything I did."

The arrests have captivated the Turkish media and rocked the nation's stock market. Government leaders have appealed for calm.

"Nobody should exert pressure on the judiciary in this process, and the media should refrain from puttting forward names of many people in the media in an irresponsible way," President Abdullah Gul said.

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