Erdogan tightens grip after failed Turkey coup, 9,000 officials dismissed | world news | Hindustan Times
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Erdogan tightens grip after failed Turkey coup, 9,000 officials dismissed

State media reports 2,839 military personnel, ranging from top commanders to foot soldiers, and 2,745 judges had been detained.

TurkeyAttemptedCoup Updated: Jul 18, 2016 22:12 IST
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a pro-government demonstration on Taksim square in Istanbul.
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a pro-government demonstration on Taksim square in Istanbul.(Reuters)

Turkey purged more than 13,000 personnel from law enforcement agencies and civilian ministries on Monday after rounding up thousands of soldiers in the wake of a failed coup, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying he would examine public demands to reinstate the death penalty for plotters.

Erdogan and his government have accused US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen – a former ally whom Erdogan accuses of trying to create a “parallel structure” within the judiciary, police, armed forces and media – of orchestrating the putsch.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 232 people were killed during Friday’s violence, including 208 civilians, police and loyalist soldiers and 24 “coup plotters”. Officials had previously put the at more than 290. They did not explain the discrepancy.

Another 1,491 people were injured in the violence that erupted after a faction of the military launched the coup on Friday night, blocking two bridges over the Bosporus in Istanbul and attacking government buildings in the capital Ankara.

As the Turkish government widened its crackdown on suspected supporters of the coup, the swift justice drew concern from Western allies who said Ankara must uphold the rule of law in the country, a NATO member that is Washington’s most powerful Muslim ally.

Erdogan told crowds of supporters on Sunday that parliament must consider their demands for the plotters to face the death penalty, which Turkey outlawed in 2004 as part of its efforts to join the European Union.

“We cannot ignore this demand,” he told the chanting crowd. “In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen.

“We cannot delay this anymore because in this country, those who launch a coup will have to pay the price for it,” he told supporters after attending funerals of victims.

F-16 jets patrolled Turkey’s skies overnight in a sign that authorities feared the threat against Erdogan’s government was not yet over, despite official assurances that life has returned to normal. State-run Anadolu news agency said Erdogan ordered the overnight patrol by F-16s “for the control of the airspace and security”.

‘No excuse’ to abandon rule of law: EU tells Turkey after failed coup

A member of the police special forces stands guard in front of the Air Force Academy in Istanbul. (Reuters)

Detentions and removals

Yildirim said 7,543 people were detained, including 6,038 soldiers, ranging from top commanders to foot soldiers, 755 judges and prosecutors, 650 civilians and 100 police officers. Of them, 316 were arrested.

The government had also removed 8,777 officials of the interior ministry, 2,745 members of the judiciary and 1,500 officials of the finance ministry, he said. The officials of the interior ministry included police and gendarmerie officers and 77 district and provincial governors.

Akin Ozturk, head of the air force until 2015 and identified by three senior officials as one of the suspected masterminds of the coup plot, was among those held. Also among the detained were 103 generals and admirals, who were held across the country in what appeared to be a major purge of the armed forces.

Ten generals had been remanded in custody ahead of trial, Dogan news agency reported.

Gen Bekir Ercan Van, commander of Incirlik airbase from which US aircraft launch air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, and Erdogan’s chief military assistant were also detained.

Erdogan said a “terror group” led by Gulen had “ruined” the armed forces, that its members were being arrested in all military ranks, and that a purge of this “virus” would continue. Gulen has denied any connection with the coup.

Those detained are accused of belonging to what the authorities call the Fethullahci Terror Organisation (FETO) led by Gulen. Gulen’s supporters say their group, which they call Hizmet (Service), is entirely peaceful.

Pictures on social media showed detained soldiers stripped to the waist, some wearing only underpants, handcuffed and lying packed together on the floor of a sports hall where they were being held in Ankara.

A video posted on Twitter showed detained generals and admirals with bruises and bandages. They included a full general and chiefs of the military and naval intelligence.

The violence shocked the nation of almost 80 million, once seen as a model Muslim democracy, where living standards have risen steadily for more than a decade and where the army last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago.

It also shattered fragile confidence among Turkey’s allies about security in the Nato country, a leading member of the US-led coalition against Islamic State. Turkey had already been hit by repeated suicide bombings over the past year and is struggling to contain an insurgency by Kurdish separatists.

Europe calls for restraint

With expectations growing of a heavy clampdown on dissent, European politicians warned Erdogan the coup attempt did not give him a blank cheque to disregard the rule of law, and that he risked isolating himself internationally as he strengthens his position at home.

Germany said on Monday that Turkey would lose its EU status if it reinstates the death penalty. US secretary of state John Kerry told a news briefing in Brussels that Western powers supported Erdogan’s government but it should abide by the rule of law.

“We stand squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey. But we also firmly urge the government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability throughout the country,” he said.

Turkey has demanded the US hand over Gulen, and Washington said it was prepared to extradite him but only if Ankara provides evidence linking him to crime. Yildirim rejected that demand.

“We would be disappointed if our (American) friends told us to present proof even though members of the assassin organisation are trying to destroy an elected government under the directions of that person,” Yildirim said.

A woman lays her head on the coffin of a victim of the failed July 15 coup attempt during his funeral in Istanbul. (AFP)

Other European politicians too expressed unease.

“(The coup attempt) is not a blank cheque for Mr Erdogan. There cannot be purges, the rule of law must work,” French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

He told France 3 television that EU ministers would reiterate that Turkey must conform to Europe’s democratic principles.

Saudi Arabia detained Turkey’s military attache to Kuwait at Turkey’s request, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said.

The Pentagon announced on Sunday that operations from Turkey by the US-led coalition against Islamic State had resumed after Ankara reopened its airspace, which had been closed during the coup attempt.

‘Parallel structure’

The crackdown intensifies a long-standing push by Erdogan to root out Gulen’s influence.

Gulen denied playing any role in the attempted coup, which he called an affront to democracy, and on Sunday told reporters he believed Erdogan had staged the putsch.

Erdogan said Turkey would demand that Western countries return Gulen’s supporters living there, and submit an extradition request for Gulen to the US.

Gulen said he would comply with any extradition ruling but was “not really worried” about one.

A boy is wrapped in a flag of the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on Taksim square, following a failed coup attempt. (AFP)

Even before the coup attempt was over, Erdogan promised a purge of the armed forces. “They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”

Erdogan’s critics say he will also use the purge to eliminating dissenting voices in the judiciary.

Strained relations

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party has long had strained relations with the military, which has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, although it has not seized power directly since 1980.

He commands the admiration and loyalty of millions of Turks particularly for raising living standards and restoring order to an economy once beset by regular crises.

But his conservative religious vision for Turkey’s future has also alienated many ordinary citizens who accuse him of authoritarianism. Police used heavy force in 2013 to suppress mass protests demanding more freedom.

During the attempted coup, calls rang out from mosques across the country, urging believers to take to the street to defend their country.

Deputy prime minister Mehmet Simsek tried to reassure investors before financial markets opened on Monday.

“The macro fundamentals of our country are solid. We are taking all necessary precautions. We are strong with the support of our people and strengthened political stability,” he tweeted.

The central bank said it would provide unlimited liquidity to banks.