Wednesday 28 June 2017

Turkey army chiefs quit in 'plot' row

Islamic prime minister clashed with generals over promoting 'conspirators'

Damien McElroy in London

TURKEY's entire military top brass quit last night as the country's Islamic government confronts senior officers for conspiring against the prime minister.

Gen Isik Kosaner, the head of the armed forces, resigned along with the heads of the ground, naval and air forces in protest over government pressure to sack many officers that they wished to promote.

The generals had been preparing for a confrontation with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, at next week's annual promotions board.

Gen Kosaner resigned because he "deemed it necessary", according to a report on Turkish news channel NTV.

Mr Erdogan had signalled he would block promotions for officers he believed were part of a conspiracy to destabilise Turkey and undermine his government.

President Abdullah Gul approved the appointment of Necdet Ozel, head of the gendarmerie, as the country's new military chief, NTV reported.

The first elected prime minister from an Islamic movement was targeted by a conspiracy known as "Sledgehammer", prosecutors have alleged.

Police have drawn up a list of 195 suspects, all retired or active members of the military, who had allegedly been party to the plot since 2003, the year Mr Erdogan took office.

The authorities are holding 42 senior officers over the alleged plot to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Senior officers in the army had been trying to get the imprisoned officers promoted, but the government has insisted they retire. Officials have also hinted they wished to see charges brought against two former chiefs of staff, Gen Yasar Buyukant, accused of involvement in a 2005 bombing, and Gen Ilker Basbug, who has been accused of ordering subordinates to run subversive websites.

Turkey's armed forces regard themselves as the guardians of the secular state. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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