WORLD – Turkey continues crackdown on military
Turkey widened a crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed military coup on Sunday, taking the number of people rounded up in the armed forces and judiciary to 6,000, and the government said it was in full control of the country and economy.
Overnight, supporters of President Tayyip Erdogan rallied in public squares, at Istanbul airport and outside his palace in a show of defiance after the coup attempt killed at least 265 people.
With expectations growing of heavy measures against dissent, European politicians warned Erdogan that the coup attempt did not give him a bank cheque to disregard the rule of law, and that he risked isolating himself internationally as he strengthens his position at home.
Broadcaster NTV cited Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as saying that more arrests were expected on top of the 6,000 people already detained.
Authorities have rounded up nearly 3,000 suspected military plotters, ranging from top commanders to foot soldiers, and the same number of judges and prosecutors after forces loyal to Erdogan crushed the attempted coup on Saturday.
Among those arrested is General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of the Incirlik air base from which U.S. aircraft launch air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, an official said.
“Control across Turkey has been restored and there are no clashes at the moment,” a senior official said, adding that although a few groups of coup plotters were holding out in Istanbul, they no longer posed a risk.
“There are still a few important soldiers on the run and being sought. I believe they will be captured shortly,” the official told Reuters.
The crackdown appears to intensify a longstanding push by Erdogan to root out the influence of followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Erdogan accuses followers of Gulen, who was once an ally but is now his arch-enemy, of trying to create a “parallel structure” within the courts, police, armed forces and media with an aim to topple the state.
The cleric denies the charge and says he played no role in the attempted coup, denouncing it as an affront to democracy.
Erdogan promised a purge of the armed forces even before the coup attempt was over. “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.”
At a rally late on Saturday, his supporters demanded that the coup leaders be executed. “Let’s hang them!” chanted the crowd in Ankara’s central Kizilay square. Erdogan told them that parliament may consider a proposal to bring back the death penalty, which has been abolished.
Erdogan’s critics say he will use the purge to create a pliant judiciary, eliminating any dissenting voices in the courts.
Some European politicians have expressed their unease about developments since the coup attempt.
“We want the rule of law to work fully in Turkey,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “(The coup attempt) is not a blank cheque for Mr Erdogan. There cannot be purges, the rule of law must work,” told France 3 television.
Ayrault said European Union ministers would reiterate on Monday when they meet in Brussels that Turkey – which has applied to join the bloc – must conform to Europe’s democratic principles.
European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Erdogan would move Turkey away from the core values represented by the EU and the NATO defense alliance – of which it is a long-standing member – if he decided to use the attempted coup to restrict basic democratic rights further.
“He would strengthen his position domestically, but he would isolate himself internationally,” Oettinger, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Some European politicians are also expressing concern about the future of a deal between the EU and Ankara that has helped to slow numbers of migrants crossing from the country to neighboring Greece.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek took to Twitter to attempt to reassure investors that the Turkish government was in full control of the economy before financial markets opened on Monday.
He said it had decided on “all necessary measures” after consulting with the central bank and treasury. He did not specify the measures.
“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 said on Twitter, adding that he planned to hold a conference call with global investors on Sunday.
The central bank said it would provide unlimited liquidity to banks.