Turkish Army Chief Warns Govt. Over Ergenekon Crack Down

ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–The head of Turkey’s powerful armed forces Tuesday issued a tacit warning to the government to tread lightly in its ongoing crackdown of an ultranationalist group under investigation for allegedly plotting to overthrow the country’s Islamic-rooted government.

The government has been heading an ongoing operation against the ultra-nationalist Ergenekon group, who prosecutors accuse of planning a campaign of bombings and attacks to force the army to step in and take power. A new indictment in March introduced formal accusations that former military commanders in Ergenekon were plotting a coup d’etat against the government.

The military has, in the past, unseated four elected governments either in outright coups or by strong political pressure.

“Politicians would be responsible for any outcomes that may emerge from a failure to consider sincere and realistic recommendations (made by the army),” Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug during an “Annual Assessment Speech” at the War Academies Command and Culture Center in Istanbul.

Basbug touched mainly on issues such as civil-military relations, the struggle with terror, as well as democracy and secularism during his speech.

He said that efforts to show the army as anti-religious and non-democratic are aimed at attempting to undermine the military’s strength and shake the nation’s confidence in the institution.

He described one approach as a “systematic opposition” made under the guise of democracy, and the other as “bad-intended propaganda campaigns” attempting to show the army as opposed to religion.

“Our society disregards this (propaganda) campaign, and loves and trusts in its army,” he added.

His comments came on the heels of the latest wave of an investigation in which more than 200 people, including retired and serving officers, have been arrested or detained for alleged links to a plot to topple Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Basbug also said the PKK can no longer move about in large groups in Turkey or in northern Iraq and was experiencing command and control problems.

“The separatist terror group is now losing blood,” he said.

Basbug emphasized however that the terror problem could not be solved solely through the efforts of the military, and that understanding why youth join the PKK terror organization was important.

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