Turkey continues post-coup purge with over 7,000 arrests

Akın Öztürk under arrest [L], and in better times [R].

The Turkish government is expected to continue its crackdown on suspected putschists today (19 July), while the US-based Muslim cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating the coup attempt says he does not fear extradition.

Turkey has so far detained over 7,500 people and sacked almost 9,000 officials in its relentless purge of suspected plotters with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowing to wipe out the “virus”.

Erdoğan has blamed his arch-foe Fethullah Gülen, a moderate Turkish preacher living in the US, for being behind the attempted power grab that left more than 300 people dead, and has demanded that Washington extradite him.

Erdogan says coup was ‘gift from God’ to reshape country, punish enemies

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Friday’s failed coup (15 July) was a “gift from God”, giving him the chance to re-shape the country, and purge the country’s elite from enemies, who accuse him of creeping Islamisation in the traditionally secular state.

But the 75-year-old categorically denies any involvement in the plot and has suggested it could have been staged by Erdoğan himself.

“I have no concerns personally,” Gülen said in an interview with several media outlets including AFP in the Pennsylvania town of Saylorsburg he has called home since 1999 under self-imposed exile.

The United States “is a country of law,” he said. “I don’t believe this government will pay attention to anything that is not legally sound.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Ankara would need to provide “evidence, not allegations” against Gülen.

The preacher’s followers have a powerful presence in Turkish society, including the media, police and judiciary, and Erdoğan has long accused him of running a “parallel state” in Turkey.

In remarks that have sparked concern among Western allies, Erdoğan has said Turkey could bring back the death penalty for the coup plotters.

Erdogan hopes to bring back the death penalty after coup attempt

Following Friday’s failed military coup (15 July), the Turkish government has been consolidating its grip on the country, particularly the army and the judiciary, and has even aired plans to reintroduce the death penalty. EURACTIV France reports.

“There is a clear crime of treason,” Erdoğan told CNN in his first media interview since the chaotic events of Friday night.

“The leaders will have to come together and discuss it. If they accept to discuss it, as the president, I will approve any decision to come out of the parliament.”

Spate of arrests

On Monday former air force chief General Akın Öztürk appeared in court, looking haggard and with an ear bandaged, and denied leading the failed coup.

“I am not the person who planned or led the coup. Who planned it and directed it I do not know,” state-run news agency Anadolu quoted him as saying in his statement to prosecutors.

General Mehmet Disli, who conducted the operation to capture chief-of-staff Hulusi Akar during the coup, has also been detained.

With Turkey’s big cities still on edge, Turkish security forces killed an armed attacker who shot at them from a vehicle outside the Ankara courthouse where suspected coup plotters were appearing before judges.

In another development, police on Monday detained seven soldiers after searching the key Incirlik air base in southern Turkey used by the US for air raids on IS jihadists, Anadolu reported.

Early Monday, special Istanbul anti-terror police units raided the prestigious air force military academy, detaining four suspects, Anadolu reported.

Two Turkish pilots who played a role in the downing of a Russian plane in November are also among those in custody.

A Greek court will Thursday decide the fate of eight Turkish military officers who fled across the border by helicopter after the coup, with Ankara seeking their extradition.

Greece-Turkey tensions build over the extradition of fugitives

Athens is in a legal, diplomatic – even moral – quandary regarding what to do regarding Ankara’s request that Turkish 8 military who fled by helicopter to Greece on Saturday (16 July) should be extradited.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan has urged citizens to remain on the streets even after the defeat of the coup attempt, in what the authorities describe as a “vigil” for democracy.

‘Caprice and revenge’-

Western leaders have pushed Turkey to follow the rule of law as the massive retaliatory purge adds to existing concerns about human rights and democracy in the strategic NATO country.

“We also urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman denounced “revolting scenes of caprice and revenge against soldiers on the streets” after disturbing pictures emerged of the treatment of some detained suspects.

The Council of Europe also joined the criticism, with its panel of constitutional experts saying: “Arrests and mass sackings of judges are not an acceptable way of restoring democracy.”

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini responded bluntly to the suggestion the death penalty – which Turkey abolished in 2004 as part of its long-running efforts to join the EU – could be reinstated.

“Let me be very clear,” she said. “No country can become an EU state if it introduces the death penalty.”

Mogherini on Turkey: 'No country can become an EU member state if it introduces the death penalty'

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini stressed on Monday (18 July) that “no country can become an EU member state if it introduces the death penalty”, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that the country should reintroduce capital punishment after last week’s attempted coup.

Separately the turbulence has raised concerns about the stability of Turkey, which is part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria.

It has also hit financial markets, with the lira at one point losing five percent in value against the dollar although it rallied slightly Monday, while Sovereign debt rater Moody’s said it was reviewing Turkey’s credit rating for a possible downgrade.

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