Massive crackdown after coup attempt in Turkey causes concern
ISTANBUL - The Turkish government’s campaign to purge the military and key state institutions following the failed coup attempt has drawn concern from the country’s allies and human rights groups.
Tens of thousands of soldiers, police officers, judges, prosecutors, teachers, academics and government officials have been detained or fired. According to Yasin Aktay, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), 10,410 people have been detained since the coup on July 15th, 7,423 of whom are military personnel and 2,014 are either judges or prosecutors.
More detentions and arrests were expected as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “eradicate the virus” of what he calls “the parallel state structure” — a shadowy network of supporters linked to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen that has allegedly exerted significant control over crucial state institutions.
Erdogan accused Gulen of pulling the strings of coup plotters and orchestrating the violent attempted takeover that left at least 265 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded. The Turkish government has formally requested the cleric’s extradition from the United States.
Erdogan’s campaign against Gulen, previously a key ally of his conservative Islamic ruling party, dates to a major corruption scandal in December 2013 that implicated the government, Erdogan’s closest associates and his family. Erdogan responded ferociously to the allegations, purging the police of thousands of officers, transferring prosecutors linked to the investigation and tightening control over the judiciary.
After the failed military takeover, he is taking on the army. By July 22nd, almost 7,500 military personnel had been detained, including 118 of Turkey’s 358 generals and admirals. An Istanbul court even ordered the arrest of 62 cadets — aged 14-17 — at a military high school.
Authorities moved to shut down media outlets allegedly linked to Gulen; at least 34 journalists had their government-issued press cards revoked.
Several academics who had signed a January petition criticising the government for its brutal crackdown on Kurds have been suspended in the city of Van. Police also took prominent human rights lawyer and commentator Orhan Kemal Cengiz into custody.
The crackdown is unlikely to let up soon. Following a July 20th meeting of the National Security Council and the cabinet, Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency for the entire country, leading to concerns among Western allies and human rights groups. The president has hinted it might be extended by another three months “if necessary”.
Amnesty International warned in a statement that emergency measures taken because of the coup attempt must remain within the framework of international human rights standards.
“In the wake of the violence surrounding the attempted coup, taking measures prioritising public security is understandable,” said Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for the group, “but emergency measures must respect Turkey’s obligations under international law, should not discard hard-won freedoms and human rights safeguards and must not become permanent.”