15:37 GMT29 October 2020
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    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned to purge opposition elements from government institutions prior to last July's failed coup, secret EU intelligence reports have claimed, with the agency accusing the president of exploiting the coup to remove opponents.

    Erdogan and his supporters removed more than 100,000 military figures, police officers, judges and other public servants from their positions and arrested more than 30,000 people following July's attempted coup, amid accusations opposition figures had infiltrated Turkey's institutions and were actively trying to overthrow the government.

    ​However the intelligence documents, prepared by the EU's intelligence agency, INTCEN, and seen by The Times newspaper, suggested a planned purge was already in motion, and that the coup was last-ditch attempt to avoid such a fate.

    "The decision to launch the coup resulted from the fears of an incoming purge," the report, dated 24 August 2016, said.

    'Gulen Not Behind Coup'

    The findings also dismiss Ankara's claim that US-based exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the coup.

    US based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania
    © REUTERS / Charles Mostoller
    US based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

    "It is likely that a group of officers comprising Gulenists, Kemalists [secularists], opponents of the AKP [Erdogan's party] and opportunists was behind the coup. It is unlikely that Gulen himself played a role in the attempt… The coup was just a catalyst for the crackdown prepared in advance."

    ​Echoing the sentiments of some of Erdogan's critics, the report stated that the president took advantage of the failed coup to proceed and speed up previously planned purges.

    "Erdogan exploited the failed coup and the state of emergency to launch an extensive repressive campaign against the opponents of the AKP establishment. The huge wave of arrests was already previously prepared."

    Opponents Had Entered Institutions

    While contradicting Erdogan on the matter of Gulen's involvement, the report agreed with the Turkish president that many Gulen supporters had organized themselves into high-ranking positions within the police, judiciary and other institutions, which allowed the exiled cleric to "influence the situation in the country and control the activities of President Erdogan."

    The EU intelligence agency noted earlier purges of certain institutions weakened the influence of Gulenists and secularists within Turkish society.

    ​"It is unlikely Gulen really had the abilities and capacities to take such steps," the report said.

    "There is no evidence that the army, [which] considers itself as the guardian of Turkey as a secular state, and the Gulenists were willing to co-operate with each other to oust Erdogan.

    "The Gulen movement is very disconnected and somewhat distant from the secular opposition and Turkish army."

    Constitutional Reform

    These revelations come amid concerns in Turkey over planned constitutional reforms that would give the country's president significantly increased powers.

    While supporters say the proposals — currently being debated in parliament — would provide stability and give leaders more power to effectively govern, critics fear the reforms represent a dangerous slide towards authoritarianism and one-man rule.

    ​"It is not just me who understands the gravity of the situation in Turkey. Mr. President regularly talks about attempts to turn the country into another Iraq and Syria," independent Turkish MP Umit Ozdag told Sputnik.

    "So why at such a difficult period for Turkey do they include on the agenda the question of constitutional amendments, which further polarizes and splits the Turkish society? I had suggested to MPs to postpone the discussion of this legislation for two years and focus on more pressing issues, but my suggestion was not considered. Meanwhile, the suggested constitutional amendments may lead to tragic consequences for Turkey."


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    coup attempt, Erdogan Purge, coup attempt in Turkey, EU Intelligence and Situation Center (INTCEN), European Union, Umit Ozdag, Fethullah Gulen, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Europe, Turkey, Middle East
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