ANKARA: Turkey on Wednesday said it was discharging 149 generals and ordering the closure of dozens of media outlets, in the next phase of its controversial crackdown in the wake of the failed coup.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who survived the biggest threat to his 13-year domination of the country when supporters countered the plotters on the streets, has blamed the July 15 coup on the reclusive US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The authorities have now embarked on a relentless campaign to eradicate every influence of Gulen from Turkish institutions in a crackdown that has shaken every aspect of life in Turkey and led to the detention of nearly 16,000 people.
Eighty-seven land army generals, 30 air force generals, and 32 admirals — a total of 149 — were being dishonourably discharged from the military over their complicity in the coup bid, a Turkish official said, confirming a government decree published in the official gazette.
In addition, 1,099 officers and 436 junior officers have also received a dishonourable discharge, the decree added.
The closure was ordered of three news agencies, 16 television stations, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers, the official gazette added.
It did not give the names of those media outlets to be closed but according to a list obtained by the CNN-Turk channel they include mainly provincial titles but also some well-known national media.
These include the Cihan news agency, the pro-Kurdish IMC TV and the opposition daily newspaper Taraf.
Also to be shut are the Zaman newspaper and its Today’s Zaman English language sister publication which, like Cihan, were part of a holding linked to Gulen until being put into state administration earlier this year.
Authorities issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists earlier this week and on Wednesday issued another 47 for former staff of the once pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday expressed deep concern about the ongoing wave of arrests in Turkey following the putsch.
The discharge of the generals most of whom are currently under arrest came ahead of a meeting of Turkey’s Supreme Military Council which is expected to agree one of the most radical shake-ups of the armed forces in years.
The military has insisted that only a tiny proportion of the total armed forces which number around three quarters of a million and are the second largest in NATO after the United States took part in the coup.
But 178 generals have been detained with 151 of them already remanded in custody around one half of the 358 generals serving in Turkey.
Turkish officials say this shows the extent to which the armed forces were infiltrated at the hightest level by supporters of Gulen.
The council will decide on the personnel changes needed in particular at general level with lower-ranking officers expected to be fast-tracked to fill the gaps in the top positions.
In a symbol of the military’s waning power in Turkey after the coup, the meeting will be symbolically held at the Cankaya Palace of the Turkish premier in Ankara and not, as is customary, at military headquarters.
In the wake of the coup the military has already lost control of the coastguard and gendarmerie, which will now be dependent on the interior ministry.
The army said Wednesday that 8,651 of its military personnel had been involved in the coup, 1.5 percent of its total number.
It said that 35 planes, 37 helicopters, 74 tanks, and three ships had been used by the plotters.
Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, told reporters that Gulen supporters had successfully infiltrated the armed forces and authorities had been planning to purge them ahead of the coup.
“Especially at the level of general, the problem is high. Quantity wise the problem is low,” he said.
Gulen, who says he runs a peaceful Islamic movement, rubbishes the claims that he was behind the coup and expressed hope that the United States would not give into Ankara’s pressure and extradite him.
According to Interior Minister Efkan Ala, 15,846 people have been detained including more than 10,000 soldiers with a total of 8,113 people remanded in custody.
Turkey has insisted all suspects will be given a fair hearing and an official said Wednesday almost 3,000 suspects have been released after being detained.
Some 50,000 state employees have lost their jobs since July 15, mostly in the education sector.