Turkey detains top generals, prominent journalists in widening purge

Sunday 24/07/2016
Growing human rights concerns

ANKARA - Turkey on Tuesday detained prominent journalists and two top generals serving abroad in a widening of the relentless legal crackdown after the July 15 coup that has caused growing alarm in the West.
The coup, which tried to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but lost momentum within hours, has sent shockwaves through all aspects of life in Turkey which are still being felt almost two weeks on.
Over 13,000 people have been detained and tens of thousands more have lost their jobs over the coup, which the Turkish authorities blame on the reclusive Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The crackdown and announcement of a three-month state of emergency has prompted sharp exchanges with the European Union, which Turkey has for years sought to join but which has sternly warned Ankara to obey the rule of law.
In a sign of the shifting priorities in Turkish diplomacy after the coup, Erdogan will visit Russia in August to repair ties harmed by a row over the shooting down of a Russian warplane, officials said.
Turkish authorities detained veteran female journalist Nazli Ilicak as part of the investigation into the coup after issuing arrest warrants for over 42 reporters a day earlier in a move that caused international concern.
She was detained early on Tuesday during a traffic check in the southwestern Bodrum region, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Ilicak is now being taken to Istanbul where she will later appear in court to learn if she will be remanded in custody.
According to the Dogan news agency, eight of the 42 journalists have now been detained including Ilicak and the former pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper writer Hanim Busra Erdal who was picked up in the western city of Manisa.
Meanwhile, two Turkish generals serving in Afghanistan were detained in Dubai on suspicion of links to the failed coup, an official said.
Major General Mehmet Cahit Bakir, the commander of Turkey's task force in Afghanistan, and Brigadier General Sener Topuc were detained at Dubai airport, said the official, who asked not to be named.
The detentions followed cooperation between the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and the UAE authorities, the state-run Anadolu news agency added, saying the pair were now being brought to Turkey.
In a separate development, the former governor of Istanbul Huseyin Avni Mutlu was held in the coup investigation, Anadolu said.
Two senior foreign ministry diplomats -- Gurcan Balik and Tuncay Babali -- have been also removed from their posts, a Turkish official said.
The government says the stringent measures are needed to clear out the influence of Gulen from Turkey's institutions, claiming he has created a "parallel state" inside Turkey.
Gulen -- who lives in a compound in rural Pennsylvania and whose foundation runs a global network of schools, charities and media interests -- has strongly denied the accusations.
In an article for the New York Times, Gulen said he wanted Turkey never to have to endure the "ordeal" of military coups again while accusing Erdogan of a "dangerous drive toward one-man rule".
Turkey has undergone a seismic shift since the night of violence when renegade soldiers sought to topple Erdogan but were stopped by crowds of civilians and loyalist security forces. At least 270 people were killed on both sides.
A bridge over the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul -- which saw some of the fiercest fighting -- is to be renamed July 15 Martyrs' Bridge after the victims of the failed coup bid, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.
Thousands of Erdogan supporters continue to fill city squares across Turkey every night with the president telling them to stay until further notice in a "vigil" for democracy.
Erdogan will visit Russia on August 9 for his first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin since Moscow and Ankara mended ties damaged by the downing of a Russian jet last year, a top Turkish official said.
The announcement was made by Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, the highest ranking Turkish official to visit Russia following the November downing of the Russian jet on the Syrian border.
Erdogan meanwhile kept up his tough rhetoric against the European Union, accusing Brussels of not paying its way under a deal to send Syrian refugees back across the Aegean.
"The (European) governments are not honest," Erdogan told German public television station ARD.

1