The main military general accused of leading the failed coup against the Turkish government had served as the Turkish military attache to Israel in the 1990s and was stationed in the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv before being promoted to commander of Turkey's air force, reports have said.
Akin Ozturk, who was arrested along with five other senior Turkish generals in the aftermath of the failed coup Friday, was in Israel between 1996 and 1998, according to the Israeli website Ynet.
The 64-year old general then became the chief of the Turkish air force before resigning in 2015 while continuing to be a member of Turkey's Supreme Military Council.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused his former ally turned arch-enemy — U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen — of orchestrating an uprising by a faction of the Turkish military that has resulted in at least 265 deaths, more than 1,000 injuries and 6,000 arrests.
But from his home in Pennsylvania, Gulen has responded that it was Erdogan himself who staged the coup as a pretext for consolidating his already-autocratic powers.
A popular theory in Turkey speculates that pro-Gulen factions within the army and the country’s military council launched the coup in an attempt to save themselves from a government’s planned purge of high-ranking officers during a meeting on Aug. 1 as part of Erdogan’s major fallout with Gulen that started in 2013.
According to the pro-government Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah, one of the items on the agenda at the meeting was a pending decision on “more than 1,000 military personnel who have alleged connections to the Gulen Movement and are charged with military espionage.”
The planned purge in the military comes after a few years of political war between Erdogan and Gulen within government institutions.
Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party's alliance with Gulen’s movement began to break down in 2013, when the government launched secret negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers' Party without including Gulen followers in the intelligence service and police.
The government has since targeted Gulen supporters with a major purge in the police and other state institutions while also cracking down on media outlets with ties to the rival political-religious movement.
Now a “terrorist” in the eyes of the Turkish government, before the coup Ozturk was a celebrated military leader, boasting medals from his own air force as well as from NATO, the Israeli news website Ynet reported.
Turkish main newspaper Hurriyet published a statement by Ozturk through people close to him where he rejected the accusations against him.
“Just as I did not take any role in this attempted coup against our people and our democracy, I had done everything in my power to help our nation overcome the damage (from this coup),” the statement said according to Hurriyet.
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