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Hero of July 2016 coup attempt says linked to Gülen movement

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A Turkish officer who was declared one of the heroes in thwarting a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 has reportedly admitted that he is linked to the faith-based Gülen movement, the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily said on Friday.

According to the report, Capt. Burak Akın, who has been serving as the security chief of Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler, recently surrendered to police in Ankara. He is said to have testified that the movement has been oppressing him.

Camera footage showed that Akın was shot in the legs during the putsch at General Staff headquarters in Ankara. He was awarded a medal for courageous action in suppressing the coup attempt.

A police officer who was one of three crewmembers of a helicopter that carried Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family from a hotel to the airport during the coup attempt in July 2016 was arrested over alleged links to the Gülen movement but later released.

Barış Yurtseven, the pilot of the plane that brought President Erdoğan from Dalaman to İstanbul on the night of the failed military coup attempt last July, was also fired from Turkish Airlines (THY) in February over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Nineteen police officers who were responsible for Erdoğan’s security were dismissed over alleged Gülen links following the failed coup attempt.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

One hundred thirty generals and admirals in the Turkish military were either dismissed or suspended as part of the widespread purge following the failed coup.

The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In February Defense Minister Fikri Işık said 30,000 new recruits would be enlisted in the Turkish military.

A month later Işık declared that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had dismissed a total of 22,920 military personnel (6,511 officers and 16,409 cadets) after the coup attempt although the Turkish military stated on July 27 that only 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in the failed coup.

The Cumhuriyet daily reported in March that the government planned to investigate 90,000 more military personnel over links to the Gülen movement.

“If it was a coup perpetrated by the Gülen movement and 22,920 military personnel were dismissed for their connections to the movement as Erdoğan and the government assert, why did only 8,651 military members participate in the coup?” is a question being asked by critics.

Some find the Turkish government’s efforts to Islamicize the Turkish army alarming and warn that NATO risks having a member army filled with extremists.

In February Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.

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