Turkey's Ground Forces Chief General Isik Kosaner.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Files)
ANKARA - Turkey's
top military brass resigned on Friday, in the latest and possibly
decisive round of a long battle between the traditional secularist
establishment embodied by the army and the Islam-rooted government of
Tayyip Erdogan that has dominated Turkey for nearly a decade.President Abdullah Gul and Erdogan met Kosaner on Friday to discuss the matter.
head of Turkey's military quit on Friday along with the army, navy and
air-force chiefs in protest against what he called the unjust detention
of 250 military officers held on charges of conspiracy against Prime
Minister Erdogan's government.
Talk tough with Turkey
The unprecedented move by the High Command in NATO's second largest armed forces sent shock-waves through Turkey.
lays open the deep rift between a military badged with the legacy of
Mustafa Kemal Atatruk, founder of the Turkish Republic, and a rival
elite represented by Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK), with
Islamist roots and a vast following in the conservative heartland of
State-run Anatolian news agency said the head of the
armed forces General Isik Kosaner and the commanders of the ground,
naval and air forces had requested retirement. Some Turkish media
initially reported they had resigned.
Kosaner in a farewell
message to comrades, reported by Anatolian, made clear he was leaving in
protest against a flawed judicial process that has led to the detention
of officers caught up in a coup conspiracy case.
"It has become
impossible for me to continue in this high office because I am unable to
fulfill my responsibility to protect the rights of my personnel as the
Chief of General Staff," Kosaner said.
Some 250 military
personnel are currently detained in jail, including 173 serving and 77
retired personnel. Most of them on charges related to an alleged plot in
2003, known as "Operation Sledgehammer".
"As many jurists have
said, it is impossible to accept their detention as being in line with
principles of universal law, justice and moral values," Kosaner said.
than 40 serving generals, almost a tenth of Turkey's commanders, are
under arrest, accused of a series of convoluted conspiracies to bring
down the AK party.
While the Erdogan government is admired at
home and abroad for bringing the military under civilian control, the
length of time it is taking to bring those accused to trial, and the
widening net dragging in more alleged conspirators, is setting off alarm
A prosecutor investigating another alleged plot involving
military officers on Friday sought the arrest of 22 people including
the commander of the Aegean army, media reports said.
office made no reference to the commanders' reasons for retiring in a
statement issued later that named General Necdet Ozel, commander of the
paramilitary Gendarmerie, as the new land forces chief, and deputy chief
of general staff.
"Our Turkish Armed Forces, one of the biggest
and most respected in the world, will continue... to do their duty given
by laws successfully in a spirit of unity and togetherness," the
It went on to say that the Supreme Military
Council will meet as planned on Monday for a twice yearly meeting to
begin deciding key appointments.
his party came to power in 2002, Erdogan has succeeded in curbing the
military's traditional dominance, using as one of his weapons the
reforms needed to advance Turkey's chances of joining the European
The Turkish lira weakened sharply on the news to 1.6964 against the dollar from an interbank close of 1.6805 on Friday.
Kosaner, who took over as head of the armed forces in August 2010, is regarded as a hard-line secularist.
Kosaner, the land forces head Erdal Ceylanoglu, air forces chief Hasan
Aksay and navy commander Ugur Yigit have also sought retirement.