The Turkish Air Force general accused of treason denied leading or planning Friday’s failed coup in a statement to prosecutors Monday.
“I am not the person who planned or led the coup,” said Gen. Akin Ozturk. Turkey’s state-run Andalou news agency had previously quoted him telling Turkish authorities that he had “acted with intention to stage a coup.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has accused the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and the “parallel structure” he formed within the military of attempting the overthrow. Approximately 232 people were killed during the coup attempt, while another 1,400 were wounded.
According to Andalou, Ozturk blamed the coup on Gulen and his followers, though he claimed he did not know who in the military was responsible for planning it. Gulen has denied any involvement, and has demanded that Erdogan’s government provide evidence.
Erdogan’s alleged connection between Ozturk and the Gulen movement is unlikely to be true. Turkey’s military has a tradition of being secular, while Gulen and his followers are considered Islamists.
“It is doubtful if Ozturk was a follower of Gulen, however. Gulen’s powerbase was always the police force; the military was more the domain of secular Kemalists,” wrote Michael Rubin, a Middle East scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, in a post for AEIdeas Tuesday.
Rubin explained that even though Erdogan has attempted to align the military with his Islamist vision, a general of Ozturk’s stature would have risen through the ranks while the military was still quite secular.
“Either way, if evidence is beginning to point to officers who were not followers of Gülen, this means that most of the people already arrested and purged were targeted only for their political beliefs, not because they had anything to do with the attempted coup,” wrote Rubin.
It is still unclear who or what exactly is responsible for the attempt. Erdogan has wasted no time using the event to consolidate power across Turkey. His purge has included the arrest of 6,000 military personnel, the firing of 9,000 police officers, the suspension of 3,000 judges and most recently the suspension of 15,000 education staff. Turkey’s high education board also demanded the resignation of 1,500 university deans Tuesday.
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