No change in top army, intel seats after failed coup attempt: Erdoğan
ANKARATurkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan, who has faced criticism before and after the failed military coup attempt of July 15, and Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar will both remain in their positions during an upcoming “transition process,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
“He did not offer his resignation. We did not discuss this,” Erdogan said in an interview with the France 24 television station after an unscheduled meeting with Fidan at the presidential palace on July 22, while admitting that there had been an intelligence failure.
“There was a weakness regarding intelligence, a failure,” he added, while also noting that such failures had also been seen in the U.S. over the September 11, 2001 attacks and the recent attacks in Belgium and France.
Erdoğan said Fidan and Akar, who was held hostage by the plotters on the night of the attempted coup, would be staying on but their positions were under review.
“If we have to make a decision [on their future], I will weigh it up with my prime minister [Binali Yıldırım]. At present we are in a transition period. We have a saying, ‘you do not change your horse halfway down the road,’” he added.
Daily Hürriyet had reported earlier that Erdoğan criticized Fidan in their meeting, to which Fidan replied: “Whatever you order, I’m ready to do.”
Erdogan had previously complained of finding out about the coup not from the intelligence services but from his brother-in-law, while also being unable to reach Fidan.
Prime Minister Yıldırım, meanwhile, said he found out about what was happening 15 minutes after the coup attempt started, having had no idea of the impending threat.
“Even looking at things in the most positive way, there was an intelligence weakness,” Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli admitted to private broadcaster NTV.
Erdoğan also told France 24 that one of the soldiers holding Akar hostage on July 15 during the uprising told the military head to call Fethullah Gülen, the main suspect behind the coup attempt.
“One of those who took our chief of staff hostage even went further. He said, ‘Let’s put you in touch with our opinion leader Fethullah Gülen,’” he said.
On July 16, riot police guarded the General Staff headquarters in Ankara, a location that was one of the focal points of the July 15 coup attempt. Senior officers who refused to participate in the coup attempt were taken hostage, including Akar.
Turkey’s government has repeatedly said the deadly coup attempt on July 15, which killed at least 246 people and injured more than 2,100 others, was organized by followers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Gülen, a former ally turned foe of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Gülen is also accused of a long-running campaign to take over the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the “parallel structure.”
On capital punishment
Erdoğan was also asked about calls for the restoration of capital punishment for coup plotters in Turkey.
During pro-government rallies in Turkey since the attempted coup, calls for the death sentence for coup plotters could be heard from the crowd. The European Union earlier this week called for an “unequivocal rejection of the death penalty.”
“The demands of the people cannot be overlooked in democracies. It is your right. This right shall be examined within the constitutional framework by the concerned authorities,” Erdoğan said in an Istanbul speech on July 17.
During the France 24 interview, he struck a more positive note on the reintroduction of capital punishment.
“In democracies, sovereignty rests unconditionally with the nation … Is there capital punishment in the U.S.? There is. In Russia? There is. China? There is. Capital punishment exists in a large majority of the world,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also added that Turkey had been “kept waiting at the door of the EU for 53 years,” asking whether those countries that have already become EU members were more eligible than Turkey.
“We are a more advanced country than any of them, from fundamental rights and freedoms to economic opportunities,” he said.
Turkey has been a candidate country for EU membership since 2005.
Chapter 33 of Turkey’s European Union accession process, which covers economic and financial provisions, was opened last month.
The Turkish president also responded to a question on purported ill-treatment of some captured soldiers during the coup attempt, featured in photographs published in the media.
“There was a brawl. During this fight, soldiers and police officers confronted each other,” he said.
“Our chief-of-staff has a serious laceration in his hand and neck [sustained] while he was handcuffed,” Erdoğan added, noting that the most important issue was to talk about the 246 people killed in the coup attempt and 2,185 injured. “That is the real ferocity,” he said.