Turkey’s ex-air force chief ‘admits’ to plotting coup

State-run media reports Akın Ozturk, a former military attaché to Israel, confesses to failed putsch to oust Erdogan

Turkish retired air force chief Akin Ozturk (YouTube screenshot)
Turkish retired air force chief Akin Ozturk (YouTube screenshot)

Former Turkish Air Force chief has confessed to plotting the failed military coup aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported Monday.

The report said Ozturk confessed during an interrogation to planning putsch, which began on Friday night and claimed at least 265 lives before it was quashed by forces loyal to the government.

Photos of Ozturk circulating in Turkish media appeared to show a number of injuries to his head and upper body, as he was shackled.

Turkish prosecutors on Monday began questioning Ozturk along with 27 other generals suspected to have been involved in the attempted coup, Anadolu reported.

The former air force commander has denied he was involved in the putsch, insisting he worked to quell the uprising in statements to Turkish media over the weekend.

Ozturk, who led Turkey’s air force between 2013 and 2015 before retiring from the army last year, was the nation’s military attaché to Israel in the 1990s; he served in the Jewish state between 1996-1998.

In the wake of the coup, Erdogan’s government moved swiftly to shore up its power and remove those perceived as enemies.

Turkish media on Monday reported that the Interior Ministry fired nearly 9,000 police officers, bureaucrats and others, and detained thousands of suspected plotters

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced a total of 7,543 people had been detained since Friday, including 6,030 military personnel.

News of the firings and detentions came as the US and European Union urged the government to uphold democracy and human rights as it pursues the military officers and anyone else involved in the coup attempt.

The government alleged the coup conspirators were loyal to moderate US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has often accused of trying to overthrow the government.

Gulen, who lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, espouses a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with democracy. He is a former Erdogan ally turned bitter foe who has been put on trial in absentia in Turkey, where the government has labeled his movement a terrorist organization. He strongly denies the government’s charges.

Kerry said the United States would entertain an extradition request for Gulen, but Turkey would have to present “legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny.” So far, officials have not offered evidence he was involved.

Yildirim said those involved with the failed coup “will receive every punishment they deserve.” Erdogan suggested that Turkey might reinstate capital punishment, which was abolished in 2004 as part of the country’s bid to join the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Monday that Turkey reinstating the death penalty would mean the end of negotiations for the country to join the EU.

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