Views: 713, Date:18/Jul/2016

Turkey coup attempt: General Akin Ozturk denies role in plot

A former air force commander has denied being a ringleader of Friday's attempted military coup in Turkey.

Gen Akin Ozturk and 26 senior officers were charged with treason and remanded in custody by a court on Monday, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

But in a statement to prosecutors, the general insisted: "I am not the person who planned or led the coup."

Anadolu had earlier quoted him as telling interrogators that he had "acted with intention to stage a coup".

Officials have blamed the unrest, which killed at least 232 people and wounded 1,400, on the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and the "parallel structure" they say he has formed to topple the government.

"I don't know who planned or directed it. According to my experiences, I think that the [Gulen movement] attempted this coup," Gen Ozturk was quoted as telling prosecutors by Anadolu before appearing in court in Ankara.

"But I cannot tell who within the armed forces organised and carried it out. I have no information. I have fought against this structure."

In an interview with the BBC on Monday evening, Mr Gulen called the attempted takeover "treason" and urged the government to produce evidence of his alleged involvement, saying Turkey was no longer really a democracy.

Earlier, the interior ministry dismissed almost 9,000 police officers as part of a purge of officials suspected of involvement in the coup attempt.

That followed the arrest of 6,000 military personnel and suspension of almost 3,000 judges over the weekend.

After a breakfast meeting in Brussels with US Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union foreign ministers warned that Turkey's ambitions to join the bloc would be over if the death penalty was reinstated.

"We need... to have Turkey respect democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms," EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said.

Mr Kerry urged the Turkish government to "maintain calm and stability throughout the country", but also cautioned "against a reach that goes well beyond that and stress the importance of the democratic rule being upheld".

But Mr Erdogan refused to rule out executing those convicted of treason if the death penalty were to be restored by parliament.

"Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons, for years to come?' - that's what the people say," he told CNN.

"They want a swift end to it, because people lost relatives, lost neighbours, lost children... they're suffering so the people are very sensitive and we have to act very sensibly and sensitively."

Mr Erdogan also insisted the US should extradite Mr Gulen, warning that it "should not keep such a terrorist".

Mr Gulen told the BBC that the US authorities would not respond to any request that was unlawful.

But he added that he would die eventually - and that whether that happened at home or in prison did not matter to him.

Turkey's Western allies expressed concern at the crackdown and urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to respond in a measured way.


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