Former Turkish air force chief confesses to planning coup, state-run media reports

By Shawn Price and Andrew V. Pestano  |  Updated July 18, 2016 at 12:42 PM
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ISTANBUL, Turkey, July 18 (UPI) -- Gen. Akin Ozturk, former chief of the Turkish air force, on Monday confessed to planning last week's coup d'etat attempt that left more than 200 people dead, state-run media in Turkey reports.

Anadolu news agency reported Ozturk told interrogators he "acted with intention to stage a coup." Ozturk previously denied involvement.

Ozturk served as commander of the air force until August 2015. Anadolu released an image of him.

Earlier in the day, European Union foreign ministers urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use restraint and respect the constitution over fears he may act unconstitutionally after the recent coup attempt.

The Turkish government had arrested at least 6,000 people by late Sunday after surviving an attempted uprising, even as Erdogan mourned the dead. More than 8,700 people have been suspended form their positions, including 30 governors, 52 civil inspectors and 16 legal advisers

Erdogan broke down in tears and vowed revenge at a funeral for a friend and many of the other 290 Turks killed in the failed coup. About half of the dead, the foreign ministry said, were part of the coup.

Among those arrested were 29 of the country's top generals, including Erdogan's top military aide, Col. Ali Yazici.

"We will continue to cleanse the virus from all state institutions, because this virus has spread. Unfortunately like a cancer, this virus has enveloped the state," Erdogan told mourners.

Some officials fear Erdogan's hard-line response to the coup will lead him to use the incident to crack down on the opposition. Thousands of judges who may have had no role in the coup have also been dismissed.

"We call for the full observance of Turkey's constitutional order, and we, as the European Union, stress the importance for the rule of law prevailing in the country," Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said at a news conference in Brussels. "We share concerns about what is happening in the country in these hours. We need to respect, have Turkey respect, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Erdogan on Sunday attended the funeral for Erol Olçak, a friend and longtime political ally who was killed along with Olçak's son.

"We march in our funeral shrouds, and we will deal with these assassins, this cult, these followers of Fethullah," Erdogan said.

The president said the coup was directed by Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric exiled in the United States.

Turkey has seen many failed coup attempts over its modern history, with the most recent in 1997.

"Coup plotters don't care about the citizens -- they just care about their own leaders," said 57-year-old former government worker Mehmet Aydin, who was forced to take part in the 1980 coup attempt.

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