Turkey appoints military heads after shock resignations

General Necdet Ozel
Image caption General Necdet Ozel was appointed as new army chief by President Abdullah Gul

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has approved the appointment of the country's four top military leaders, after the resignation of their predecessors last week.

As expected, army chief Gen Necdet Ozel is promoted to chief of general staff.

This is the first time a civilian government has been able to decide who commands the powerful armed forces.

The four generals resigned over the arrest of officers accused of plotting to undermine the government.

Gen Isik Kosaner and the chiefs of the army, navy and air force quit just hours after a court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers.

The new appointments come at the end of a four-day promotions meeting chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The BBC's correspondent in Turkey, Jonathan Head, says Mr Erdogan used the resignations to promote commanders more likely to accept civilian supremacy, though all are career officers with unimpeachable records of loyalty.

'Politically motivated'

Gen Ozel had been widely tipped for swift elevation to chief of the general staff in place of Gen Kosaner, after his appointment as army chief last week. Tradition dictates that only the head of the army can take over the top job.

Gen Hayri Kivrikoglu is the new land forces commander, Adm Emin Murat Bilgel takes over as naval commander and Gen Mehmet Erten becomes air force commander, media reports say. They will all take up their posts once formally approved by the cabinet.

Several generals named in the investigations were passed over.

A total of 250 officers have been implicated in the alleged plots, among them 14 generals and admirals.

The case that prompted last week's military resignations is the latest element of the protracted "Sledgehammer" controversy - a coup plan allegedly presented at an army seminar in 2003.

It reportedly involved plans to bomb mosques and provoke tensions with Greece, in order to spark political chaos and justify a military takeover.

Twenty-eight servicemen will go on trial next month.

The defendants have argued that the plot was a just theoretical scenario to help them plan for potential political unrest.

The military top brass has long complained that these indictments are politically motivated, and that the suspects have been detained for far too long while awaiting trial.

Our correspondent says there are probably many Turks who agree with their complaints - but after Mr Erdogan's third successive election victory in June there are few voices here questioning his right to exert civilian control over who commands the armed forces.

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