Turkey’s top army commander, who was held hostage during a failed attempted coup, has kept his post, the presidency has announced.
Hulusi Akar, a four-star general, retained his position as chief of staff, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters on Thursday following a five-hour meeting of Turkey’s Supreme Military Council (YAS) to discuss a restructuring of the armed forces in the wake of the July 15 coup bid.
The heads of the navy, land and air forces also remained in their posts.
The YAS meeting came after the government ordered the discharge of 149 generals and admirals – nearly half of the armed forces’ entire contingent of 358 – for alleged complicity in the failed coup bid.
Reflecting the military’s waning power, the meeting was held at the Cankaya Palace, the prime minister’s official residence in Ankara and not, as is customary, at military headquarters.
The soldiers who traditionally stood in front of the meeting room to provide security were replaced by plain-clothes officers, according to Turkish daily Hurriyet.
Just hours before the YAS meeting, two high-ranking Turkish officers handed in their resignations in protest against the government’s ongoing dismissals in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt, sources told Al Jazeera.
Turkish media identified them as Kamil Basoglu and Ihsan Uya, both high-ranking members of the land forces.
In a separate development, a parliamentary official said on Thursday that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants the armed forces and the national intelligence agency brought under the control of the presidency.
“The president said that he would discuss with opposition parties bringing the armed forces and the MIT [Turkey’s national intelligence agency] under the control of the presidency,” the official was quoted by Turkish media as saying.
Both the armed forces and MIT currently report to the prime minister’s office.
Such a change would require a constitutional amendment, so Erdogan’s Justice and Development party would require the support of opposition forces in parliament.
Putting them under the president’s overall direction would be in line with Erdogan’s push for a new constitution centred on a strong executive presidency.
The decree also ordered the closure of scores of media organisations that allegedly had links to the US-based cleric and businessman Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government holds responsible for the coup attempt.
A total of 1,684 members of the armed forces were also dismissed from the Turkish military as a result of their alleged connections to the Gulen movement, according to the decree, the second to be issued under the powers of the state of emergency.
Since the failed coup attempt, more than 16 000 people, including soldiers, judges, prosecutors and civil service workers, have been detained. Of them, a total of 8,133 have been charged, according to the latest interior ministry figures.
The rapid pace of arrests since the failed coup has worried many of Turkey’s allies, who say they see the country going down an increasingly authoritarian road.
“My concern has to do with the fact that the actions here are very tough and the principle of proportionality is not always central,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday also expressed deep concerns about the ongoing wave of arrests in Turkey following the attempted coup.
In a phone conversation, Ban told Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that “credible evidence” must be presented swiftly so that the detainees’ legal status could be determined by a court of law.