Turkish authorities plan to dismiss nearly 3,000 military staff over their alleged links to an attempted coup in July 2016, which Ankara says was orchestrated by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The officials “discovered a nearly three-thousand strong structure” in the armed forces, state news agency Anadolu quoted Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli as saying to the parliament on Wednesday.
“In the coming days, they will be dismissed by emergency decree. We have sent (the paperwork) to the prime ministry,” Canikli added.
Turkey has so far dismissed 8,568 armed forces personnel in a major purge of the military, including 150 generals who constituted more than half of the army’s pre-coup high-ranking officers.
During the botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.
Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since then, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 140,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.
On Tuesday, the European Commission called on Ankara to “lift the state of emergency without delay” in its latest report on Turkey’s efforts to join the EU.
The Turkish defense minister, however, defended the state of emergency, arguing that it has “only affected terror organizations, terrorists and their supporters.”
Ankara has accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.
Additionally, the Ankara government has outlawed his movement, and has branded it as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.
The 76-year-old cleric has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he said is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”
Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.