Turkey on Saturday pushed with a sweeping crackdown against suspected plotters of its failed coup, defiantly telling European Union critics it had no choice but to root out hidden enemies.
Using new emergency powers, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s cabinet decreed that police could now hold suspects for one month without charge, and also announced it would shut down over 1,000 private schools it deems subversive.
A week after renegade soldiers tried to oust him with guns, tanks and F16s, Erdogan’s government has detained over 12,000 people it suspects are state enemies, including almost 300 officers of the guard shielding his Ankara palace.
As part of the mass arrests, police detained a nephew of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, 75, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the July 15 putsch and whose followers it labels a “terrorist” group.
Fears that Erdogan will seek to further cement his rule and muzzle dissent through repression have strained ties with Western NATO allies and cast a darkening shadow over Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned that “a country that jails its own university professors and journalists imprisons its future”.
Turkey’s EU minister Omer Celik insisted that European leaders don’t appreciate the scale of the threat and lamented that none had come to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Turkey’s leaders after the bloodshed of July 15.
“Come here and see how serious this is!” Celik told a foreign media briefing.
“Those who look at Turkey from far away think it is a Pokemon game,” he added, referring to the viral smartphone game with Japanese cartoon characters.
He added that Gulen was more dangerous than either the late al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden or Islamic State group jihadists.