Turkish gov’t purges 40,000 military personnel over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dismissed over 40,000 military personnel from NATO’s 2nd biggest army, including officers from the Gendarmerie General command and military cadets, over alleged links to the Gülen movement since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to a report by online news outlet TR724 based on a compilation of stories by the pro-Erdoğan Yeni Şafak daily, the highest number of officers have been dismissed from the Land Forces Command with a purge of 8,201 personnel. The Turkish government has also purged 4,215 military personnel from the Air Forces Command and 2,592 from the Naval Forces Command.

In addition, a total of 16,409 military cadets consisting of 4,090 military high school students, 6,140 students from the Vocational School for Noncommissioned Officers and 6,179 undergraduate students at the Military Academy, the Naval War College, the Air War Academy, the Gülhane Military Medical Academy and the Nursing College were dismissed by the government.

Including purges in the Gendarmerie General Command, which is under the purview of the Interior Ministry, the total number of dismissals from the Turkish military and affiliated institutions has reached 40,000.

According to a Yeni Şafak daily report, 87 generals, 4,179 lower-ranking officers, 2,677 noncommissioned officers and 1,165 specialist and contracted soldiers were purged from the Turkish Land Forces. Together with the dismissal of 93 civilian employees, the total number of personnel dismissed from the Turkish Land Forces totals 8,201 since the coup bid in 2016.

The total number of military personnel dismissed from the Turkish Naval Forces is 2,592, including 31 admirals, 1,364 lower-ranking officers, 1,074 noncommissioned officers, 30 specialist soldiers and contracted soldiers and 84 civilian employees.

Despite the fact that the largest number of purges has been from the Land Forces, dismissals as a ratio of the size of the force have been the highest in the Air Forces, where a total of 4,215 military personnel were purged, including 32 generals, 2,059 lower-ranking officers, 1,993 noncommissioned officers, 73 specialized and contracted soldiers and 58 civilian employees.

Meanwhile, 23 staff members were purged from the General Staff and 211 from the Defense Ministry.

The total number of personnel purged from the Turkish military totals 15,242 if the reinstatement of some purged personnel is taken into account. The purged personnel consists of 150 flag officers, 7,602 lower-ranking officers, 5,744 noncommissioned officers, 1,277 specialist or contracted soldiers and 469 civilian employees.

It was also reported that 5,783 military members have been tried, including 3,434 from the Land Forces, 881 from the Naval Forces and 1,468 from the Air Forces.

Some 600 military members are still in pretrial detention, half of them from the Land Forces. A total of 466 Turkish military personnel, including 223 from the Land Forces, 143 from the Naval Forces and 100 from the Air Forces are still being sought, eight of whom are reportedly generals or admirals, 409 lower-ranking officers and 49 noncommissioned officers.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since the coup attempt in July 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organisation,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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