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Turkish top brass charged with treason over coup plot

Over 8,700 Turkish officials have also been dismissed and public sector workers banned from travel in wake of failed coup attempt
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) and former Turkish president Abdullah Gul (C-R) attend the funeral of a victim of the coup attempt in Istanbul on Sunday (AFP)

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk and 26 other generals and admirals were charged on Monday with treason in an Ankara court, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, as the Turkish government’s recriminations against those involved in last Friday’s failed coup reaches fever pitch.

Thirteen other senior military officers were remanded in custody by an Istanbul court on Monday, charged with establishing and being members of an armed terrorist organisation and attempting a coup.

Police have also reportedly conducted a search at Incirlik air base, which houses nuclear weapons and is currently used by the United States as an operations headquarters for its war against the Islamic State group. The base's commander has already been detained, accused of supporting the attempted coup, according to Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah.

The latest developments come as the country's public sector workers were reportedly banned from travelling abroad as the government seeks to prevent any Gullenist supporters from leaving, according to Turkish TV station NTV.

All medical personnel at state-run health facilities have also had their leave cancelled in case of further incidents of violence, according to local reports.

Also on Monday, Turkey’s Constitutional Court opened disciplinary proceedings to suspend two of its own members who were detained following the attempted coup, legal sources told Anadolu Agency.

Also Turkey’s highest administrative court suspended 48 of its members following an investigation launched by the Ankara chief public prosecutor's office.

So far, 8,777 personnel have been dismissed from their duties, according to the Turkish Interior Ministry. The number includes 30 governors, 52 civil inspectors and 16 legal advisors, according to Anadolu, as well as military figures, judges and police officers.

At least 208 people, including civilians and members of the security forces, have been killed and over a thousand wounded in protests against the coup.

'Act of betrayal'

Speaking in Istanbul on Monday morning, Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik told crowds of anti-coup demonstrators: “As of today the coup was prevented, but we can’t say the threat is gone.”

He said that Turkey had known many coups, “but we never witnessed such a flagrant act of betrayal as that last coup attempt.”

He added that even foreign occupiers had not attacked Turkish people with bombs from helicopters and jets. 

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, who has special responsibilities regarding economic matters, said that the failed putsch would only have a minor impact on the country’s economy.

“The Turkish economy will be one of the fastest-growing economies among OECD countries in 2016,” Simsek told Bloomberg television before markets opened on Monday. “It is clear that the coup attempt will have a limited impact on the Turkish economy.”

“We had a bad dream and it left behind,” he said. “Our message is very clear, there is no need to panic.”

Turkey’s GDP grew by 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period the previous year, making the country one of the fastest growing economies among European and OECD countries.

The Turkish lira rose almost 2.50 percent against the US dollar after Simsek’s remarks.

Political reaction was not limited to the government, however, as Turkey’s main opposition CHP party also doubled down on its opposition to the failed military coup in a statement released on Monday.

"We condemn the coup attempt [against] our parliamentary democracy by a junta within the Turkish Armed Forces," the statement read. "With regards to Turkey’s respectability, [the process of holding coup plotters accountable] should only be conducted within the limits of the rule of law.”

Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu had swiftly opposed the coup on the day it took place, saying: "This country was wracked with coups. We do not want to go through the same troubles."

Long arm of the law

Further details about the kill or capture attempt on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s life have been revealed by local officials in Marmaris, a resort town in southwest Turkey where the president was on holiday at the time of the coup attempt.

The governor’s office said that the provincial gendarmerie seized weapons and military equipment – including assault rifles, ammunition, grenades, body armour and night-vision gear – in a wooded area on Sunday near the hotel where Erdogan was staying on Friday night.

The statement said that the search was still underway for the helicopter-borne troops who attacked the hotel shortly after Erdogan left for Istanbul. Two police officers were killed and seven injured in the ensuing gun battle.

Two air force sergeants were arrested with several weapons in the nearby area, the statement added.

In the US, a petition was set up by Turkish expats on the official White House website demanding America “stop providing a safe haven to Fethullah Gulen” and deliver him to Turkey.

The extradition petition has already gathered 35,000 signatures, more than a third of the required amount to get a response from the White House.

In related news, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim late on Sunday to confirm that the extradition process had begun against eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece after the failed coup.

The Greek premier told Erdogan in a telephone conversation the same day that they would be returned between 10 and 15 days.