More Generals Implicated in Coup Plots Likely to 'Retire' in Turkey

Article Summary
Turkey has completed a massive purge of top ranks of the military by retiring”40 detained generals who are accused of conspiring to overthrow the government in what's known as “Sledgehammer.” The purge represents a successful counter-coup measure by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, argues Fikret Bila.

Turkey’s Supreme Military Council has retired the 40 generals and admirals in detention, and whose files came up for review at the end of their terms of duty. Twenty of them had their terms of duty extended for one more year at last year’s review. Seventeen of them could have been allowed an additional year without a promotion. They were entitled to one year extensions. But the Council did not extend any of them.


Council’s decision to retire all detained generals and admirals whose files were up for review means there was a purge in Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]. The Council has thus removed from military ranks any general whose name was implicated in coup plots. The Council did not want any one whose name was implicated to remain in the military although their judicial cases are not yet over and they may well be acquitted.

Preferences of Gul and Erdogan

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We know from previous Council meetings that President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had decided that any officer whose name was implicated in coup plots should not be promoted and those whose terms were over should not be extended and be retired. Gul’s and Erdogan’s stands had some effect on earlier Council meetings, but terms of duty of some generals and admirals were extended on the insistence of Chief of General Staff. Former Chief of General Staff Ilker Basbug in 2010 managed to extend the terms of some generals and admirals and had three of them promoted. The next Chief of General staff Isik Kosaner in Supreme Military Council’s 2012 session wanted to do the same but when that led to tension with the government he reacted by asking for his retirement with commanders of three major branches [army, navy, and air force].

This time there was no such showdown. In line with Gul’s and Erdogan’s preference, all were retired including those who were entitled to one year extensions at current rank.

The current Chief of General Staff Necdet Ozel did not follow the paths of Basbug and Kosaner and implemented the preferences of the political authority.

Precedent for next year

The decisions of the Council are indicators of what to expect next year. It is now feasible to predict that 12 generals and admirals, including four-star general Bilgin Balanli and Nusret Tasdeler who are now in detention, will be also be retired in the next year’s Council session. We can also guess that the decision to retire generals and admirals whose names are mentioned in court files will also be applied to detained colonels. Thus, we can conclude that the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases have resulted in a purge of Turkish Armed Forces.

Even if not guilty

Another conclusion is the possibility of collateral damage, that is, punishment of the innocent before their cases are decided. We still don’t know who will be sentenced when the trials end.

Some generals and admirals are being tried only because their names were found on some lists prepared in their absences. Especially in the Sledgehammer trial there were some who said they were abroad on duty and could not have participated in coup planning meetings. There was one officer who proved that he was making an undersea film with Turkish Radio and Television on the day he was alleged to have attended a coup meeting. Nevertheless they are kept in detention as their trials continue.

The decisions of the Supreme Military Council tell us that any officer of whatever rank will not be allowed to remain in the Turkish military if his name is mentioned in the trials, even if the mentions are unjustified.

From Hasdal to Silivri

Another result of the Council decisions would be the transfer of those in active service now detained at Hasdal Military Prison to Silivri Civilian Prison upon their retirement.

These generals and admirals will be joining other officers who are detained at Silivri because of their retired status.

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