ANKARA (Reuter)–Turkey’s former interior minister Meral Aksener admitted Tuesday that police had spied on the secularist military to find out about preparations for a possible coup against the previous Islamist-led government.
"(Police) intelligence service fulfilled a duty given by the laws…and democracy," Aksener told a news conference broadcast live on the NTV television news channel. "It was not something illegal," she said.
Aksener was referring to media accusations that a police intelligence team bugged the army’s telephones and stole secret documen’s on orders from the administration of former Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan.
She denied giving any specific orders to spy on the army.
Aksener–from the conservative wing of the previous coalition–called for public debate on media reports that an army document allegedly stolen by police and given to Erbakan may have outlined plans to topple the government.
"It must be discussed whether there were coup (preparations) or not in that document and who was involved in them," she said. The new government of Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and the army have announced investigations into the claims.
The military later replied to Aksener with a stern statement. A general staff statement quoted by state-run Anatolian news agency said Aksener’s commen’s showed "a level of mistrust between state organs never seen before in the history of the republic."
The statement denied that the police had the right to spy on the army.
"Police surveillance against another state organization is completely outlawed," it said.
The affair followed months of bitter rows between the secularist army and the former government which collapsed under intense pressure from the anti-Islamist generals.
The powerful military–self-declared guardians of Turkey’s secular order–accused Erbakan’s government of encouraging Islamist extremism in a series of public warnings which sparked speculation that the generals were preparing a coup.
Former police intelligence member Bulent Orakoglu–who is alleged to have directed spying on the military–was suspended from the police force on Tuesday–Anatolian said.