Turkish government extends control over security services

Turkish government extends control over security services

4 min read
31 July, 2016
New changes to Turkey's security services have been made following the failed 15 July coup as the government seeks to extend its control over spy and military agencies.
Following an attempted military coup, Erdogan has tightened control in Turkey [AFP]

A new decree in Turkey has given President Tayyip Recep Erdogan and the prime minister the authority to issue direct orders to the commanders of the army, air force and navy.

The sweeping new law also shuts down military schools, establishes a new national defence university, puts the force commanders directly under the defence ministry and announces the discharge of 1,389 military personnel.

Erdogan has launched a sweeping crackdown on those he accuses of being involved in the 15 July attempted coup, which followed earlier moves to extend his power over state institutions.

In an interview with private A Haber television on Saturday, Erdogan said he also wanted to put the country's intelligence agency and the chief of general staff's headquarters under the presidency following the attempted putsch against the government.

"We are going to introduce a small constitutional package (to parliament) which, if approved, will bring the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and chief of staff under the control of the presidency," Erdogan said.

The government would need support from opposition parties to push through the shift as a super majority of two-thirds of deputies is needed to make constitutional changes.

The changes, announced just over two weeks after the coup, appear aimed at giving Erdogan more control over the armed forces and intelligence.

Rogue elements in the military - who Erdogan says were controlled by the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen -surprised the authorities by launching the coup, while the president has also complained of intelligence failures.

Erdogan said he was unhappy with the information received from the MIT and its chief Hakan Fidan on the night of the coup, complaining that valuable time had been lost.

"There was unfortunately in all of this a serious intelligence failure," he said.

Turkey on Thursday already reshuffled the upper echelons of its military after nearly half of its 358 generals were sacked for complicity in the coup.

A senior official said on Saturday that Turkey had intercepted encrypted messages sent by followers of Gulen on the app ByLock well before the coup attempt, giving Ankara names of tens of thousands within the preacher's network.

Gulen denies any involvement in the attempted putsch.

Erdogan also said a three-month state of emergency declared in the wake of the coup could be extended, as the French authorities did after a string of militant attacks in the country.

"If things do not return to normal in the state of emergency then like France we could extend it," Erdogan said.

The president said that until now 18,699 people had been detained in the post-coup crackdown, with 10,137 of them placed under arrest.

Seventeen journalists remanded in custody by an Istanbul court over links to Gulen woke up in jails across the city on Saturday as international concern grows over the targeting of reporters after the thwarted putsch.

Twenty-one journalists had appeared before a judge in hearings lasting until midnight on Friday. Four were then freed but the rest were placed under pre-trial arrest, charged with "membership of a terror group", the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Those held include the veteran journalist Nazli Ilicak as well as the former correspondent for the pro-Gulen Zaman daily Hanim Busra Erdal.

"It's not right to arrest journalists - this country should not make the same mistakes again," said Bulent Mumay, one of the four freed.

Erdogan also announced that as a gesture of goodwill after the coup he was dropping hundreds of lawsuits against individuals accused of "disrespectful" insults against him.

Thousands of those detained after the coup have now been released, with an Istanbul court freeing 758 soldiers late on Friday, adding to another 3,500 former suspects already set free.

Among those released were 62 students from Istanbul's military academy - many said to be in their teens - who left Maltepe jail to an emotional reunion with relatives, Dogan news agency said.

Erdogan has complained loudly about the lack of Western solidarity for Turkey but on Saturday met with Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdulrahman al-Thani of Qatar, one of Ankara's closest allies.