Turkish General Staff rejects accusations of coup plans
ANKARAThe Turkish General Staff has categorically denied allegations that some members of the military allegedly linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement were planning a coup d’état, underlining it has launched a legal action against unspecified media outlets over reports it said were damaging morale, as Turkey faces an almost unprecedented combination of national security threats.
“News and commentaries in some media organs without any foundation naturally influence the morale and motivation of our heroic comrades-in-arms negatively and make all our members uncomfortable,” the General Staff said in a rare political statement posted on its official website on March 31.
The statement came during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ongoing visit to the United States, where he has been attending the Nuclear Security Summit.
“Discipline, absolute obedience and single order command is essential in the Turkish Armed Forces. It is not possible for there to be any concessions to any illegal and out-of-command chain hierarchy establishment or action,” said the statement, without giving further specifics.
“The administrative and legal mechanisms of the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK], which take their strength from the deep love and trust of the people and express their adherence to democracy at every opportunity, are employed constantly and effectively,” the TSK said, reaffirming its commitment to democracy, as Turkey’s military has a long history of intervening in politics, pressuring an Islamist-led government out of power as recently as 1997.
It said legal action had been initiated against those writing news “with other motives” who “had gone too far.”
Certain media outlets have carried reports speculating over the possibility of a military coup in Turkey, with Erdoğan out of the country for almost a week on a visit to the United States. An opinion piece written by scholar Michael Rubin published in Newsweek entitled “Will there be a coup against Erdoğan in Turkey?” had gathered major attention in and outside the country.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) strictly ruled out the prospect of a military coup d’état, with deputy chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu telling reporters: “Nobody can attempt a non-democratic way in Turkey, including the army. The era of coup d’états is over; the strongest opposition to a coup would come from the CHP. I don’t believe that such a discussion is right and that there can be anybody inside the TSK who has such an understanding.”
CHP deputy Dursun Çiçek, a former military officer, meanwhile, said the “parallel state structure” would not have to apply plots against the TSK if they had actually reached sufficient power to conduct a military coup d’état.
“The [Turkish] Armed Forces is not making this statement out of the blue,” Çiçek said, adding that the statement was a response to “provocative” reports. “If the parallel state structure called FETÖ [the Fethullahist Terror Organization] has reached strength sufficient to overthrow the Armed Forces or seize the Armed Forces, then it would not have picked up the Armed Forces as a center of legal plots in the past,” Çiçek said.
Çiçek was among a majority of alleged military coup convicts, mostly Turkish military veterans, who were cleared in 2015 in what justices and prosecutors called the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case, which was filed over an alleged military coup planned in 2003 to remove the Justice and Development Party (AKP) from power.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said the government should have responded if there had been a rumor of a coup.
“Previously, the government and the ministers were saying that the General Staff is subordinate to the government. If there was need for a response, then the government should primarily respond,” MHP deputy chair Emin Haluk Ayhan said. “That needs to be asked to the government,” he added.