ISTANBUL (AP) — The Turkish military denied Monday allegations of a recently revealed military plot by to defame the ruling Justice and Development Party.
In a statement the military said it would purge any soldiers who failed to respect democracy and the rule of law following allegations of a military conspiracy against the Islamic-oriented ruling party.
The statement came several days after Taraf, a Turkish newspaper, printed a document allegedly compiled by a military colonel that outlines a plan to use the media to smear the ruling party by portraying it as corrupt and a violator of its own Islamic ideals.
The controversy highlights divisions between the government and pro-secular elites that suspect the ruling party is trying to impose religion. Turkey is predominantly Muslim, but has a secular political system.
The military sees itself as a guardian of secularism, but it has lowered its political profile in recent years in the face of a government with a strong electoral mandate, the backing of the West and growing stature as a regional mediator.
Still, the Taraf report raised old worries about the military, which launched coups in the past and — in Europe’s view — must get out of politics altogether if candidate Turkey is to join its club.
The military “cannot keep within its system any personnel whose actions and opinions are not compatible with democracy and the principles of a state governed by the rule of law,” the statement said.
“If it is proven that the document is genuine, we are confident that the culprits will be punished through the judicial authorities,” it said.
The document lists alleged government efforts to undermine the reputation of the military. Those include an ongoing trial of the Ergenekon gang, an alleged network of suspected coup plotters, including civilians, retired generals and active-duty officers. The government, however, views the trial as an opportunity to uncover a tradition of purported wrongdoing by armed groups linked to the state.
The document was allegedly found during a search of the office of Serdar Ozturk, a retired military lawyer who was arrested in the Ergenekon investigation.
It recommends a goal of ending the activities of the ruling Justice and Development Party, citing its alleged goal of forming an Islamic state, an aim that the party has vigorously denied. The document suggests discrediting pro-government cleric Fethullah Gulen by arranging for the discovery of weapons and ammunition in houses of his supporters.