Government busts Air Force pilot as it hunts Gulen supporters

The Turkish government continues to crack down on those accused of links with the Gulen movement with the latest arrests involving twenty-three military officers across the country.

The Gulen movement was accused of a coup attempt in July 2016 by Turkish authorities, it’s led by Fethullah Gulen, a cleric based in the United States, however, he denies the accusations.

Though it’s been now more than two years since the coup attempt, the government continues to hunt and arrest those who were allegedly associated with it. The latest arrest is that of Captain Ali Onur Adali, an aerobatic pilot and member of the famous Turkish Air Force, better known as ‘Turkish Stars.’

Turkish Air Force aerobatic team, Turkish Stars. (Photo: Twitter)

Adali, who’s been with the Air Force for more than ten years, was suspended on December 18. His career highlights include performing amazing demonstration flights with the ‘Turkish Stars’, the aerobatic team which is regarded as the Air Force’s most significant power of parade by many nationals.

 Following the orders of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s office in the central province of Konya, the police launched simultaneous operations in different cities to arrest and detain the officers, eighteen of whom are in active service, according to the Demiroren News Agency.

Adali was among the twenty-one detainees arrested and taken into custody, two other detainees were released by the court with judicial control in compliance with Turkish Penal Code 221/3, also known as “Effective Remorse Law”, for their active co-operation with police.

Many believe those seen as Gulen followers are charged by prosecutors often on far fetched evidence. In tandem with these beliefs, the allegations are based on the officers’ usage of pay phones, an act assumed as direct evidence by the Turkish court, to prove ties to the Gulen movement.

During the investigation into the officers’ alleged conduct, Adali was reportedly asked why he performed a low altitude flight over the protocol that included President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the Victory Day parade on August 30 in 2015.

“Due to a malfunction on the plane, I had to perform a low altitude flight. It was not done maliciously on purpose,” Adali reportedly responded. After the failed coup, Turkey purged 716 fighter pilots from its Air Force.

“This figure comprises 70 percent of the active pilots,” said former fighter pilot Bahadir Altan, in an interview given to the Turkish news portal, Gazete Duvar.

Fighter pilot shortage

In order to make up to the shortage of fighter pilots, the Turkish government has issued a decree. According to the decree, 330 former pilots are going to have their civil pilot license revoked, unless they return to the Air Force duty for four years, as documented by an Atlantic Council report.

No extradition as yet of Gulen

Though the American government maintains that Turkish authorities have provided circumstantial evidence, they say it’s not sufficient for US judges to extradite Fethullah Gulen.

Turkish authorities have since detained 160 000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants since the failed coup, according to the United Nations’ human rights office.

The crackdown is severely criticised by Turkey’s Western allies. Erdogan’s critics accuse him of using the failed coup as a pretext to suppress dissent.

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