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Turkey military command quits in row with government: report

ANKARA: Turkey's army chief-of-staff and entire military command resigned Friday in a row with the government over generals jailed in an alleged anti-government plot.General Isik Kosaner stepped down after several meetings with Erdogan in recent days ahead of an early August meeting of the army's high command which decides on promotions for senior officers.Media reports...

SAMAA | - Posted: Jul 29, 2011 | Last Updated: 10 years ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jul 29, 2011 | Last Updated: 10 years ago

ANKARA: Turkey's army chief-of-staff and entire military command resigned Friday in a row with the government over generals jailed in an alleged anti-government plot.General Isik Kosaner stepped down after several meetings with Erdogan in recent days ahead of an early August meeting of the army's high command which decides on promotions for senior officers.Media reports blamed tensions between the military and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over army demands for the promotion of dozens of officers being held on suspicion of involvement in an alleged anti-government plot.As well as Kosaner, the commanders of the army, air force and navy also quit, NTV and CNN-Turk reported — a first for NATO member Turkey.Forty-two generals and dozens of officers are in jail pending a probe into a alleged plots to unseat the government led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement.Several of those held are retired, but senior officers in the army have been trying to get some of the serving officers promoted despite their incarceration.The government insists the group be forced to retire.The most senior of the jailed group is four-star general Bilgin Balanli, head of Turkey's military academies, who had been in line to become air force commander this year. He was detained in May.Members of the high command who stepped down on Friday have now themselves asked for early retirement, the Anatolia news agency reported.The dramatic mass resignation has particular resonance in Turkey, which endured military coups followed by periods of repression in 1960, 1971 and 1980.In 1997, an army-led campaign forced the resignation of the country's first Islamist-led government headed by Erdogan's mentor Necmettin Erbakan.The AKP, in power since 2002, has not commented on the resignations.An investigation into an alleged 2003 plan dubbed “Operation Sledgehammer” to overthrow the government, will see 28 servicemen will go on trial next month.The plot was allegedly drawn up shortly after the AKP came to power amid fears it would undermine Turkey's secular system.The suspects risk 15 to 20 years in jail if convicted.The investigation, the toughest challenge yet to the once-omnipotent Turkish military, has landed about a tenth of the army's generals in jail.The case has, however, been marred by serious doubts over the authenticity of some implicating documents, fuelling mistrust between the army and government.The soldiers allegedly plotted to bomb mosques and down a Turkish jet over the Aegean and blame it on Greece, hoping to discredit the government and garner public support for a coup.The alleged plot leader, retired general Cetin Dogan, has said that papers from a seminar on a contingency plan based on a scenario of tensions with Greece and domestic unrest had been doctored to look like a coup plan. AGENCIES

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