Monday, July 18, 2016

Turkey Widens Purge as Crackdown Continues
New York Times
JULY 18, 2016

ISTANBUL — Turkish authorities moved to widen their purge of perceived opponents on Monday by removing thousands of police officers from their posts, part of the crackdown that followed a failed military coup that was aimed at toppling the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Interior Ministry fired nearly 9,000 police officers on Monday, Turkish officials said. That followed the arrests of 6,000 military personnel and 103 generals and admirals, and the suspensions of nearly 3,000 judges over the weekend.

Also on Monday, Mr. Erdogan extended an order for fighter jets to patrol the airspace over Istanbul and Ankara, and he banned military helicopters from taking off in Istanbul.

The magnitude of the purges has raised concerns among Turkey’s Western allies that Mr. Erdogan is abandoning the rule of law and using the coup attempt as a pretext to cleanse the country’s institutions of his enemies. In Brussels on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry and the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, urged Turkey — a member of NATO and a candidate for membership in the European Union — to show restraint.

“Obviously, NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy, and NATO will indeed measure very carefully what is happening,” Mr. Kerry said. “And my hope is that Turkey is going to move in ways that do respect what they have said to me many times is the bedrock of their country.”

Ms. Mogherini said that “we need to respect, have Turkey respect, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and that any reintroduction of the death penalty — as some Erdogan supporters have urged — would be a nonstarter in talks about Turkey’s eventually joining the 28-nation bloc.

Mr. Erdogan pointed the finger at his former ally-turned-rival Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and who is known to have a vast following in the police and judiciary.

Western diplomats said on Monday that Turkey’s response to the coup attempt suggested that the government had prepared lists of those they believed to be linked to Mr. Gulen’s followers, before the unrest.

A senior Turkish official said that members of the Gulen movement in the military had been under investigation for some time, and that the group had acted out of a sense of emergency when they realized that they might face prosecution.

“There was a list of people who were suspected of conspiring to stage a coup,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, in line with government protocol. “And they did attempt a coup even though many people, including myself, treated the claims as a conspiracy theory at the time.”

“There was no arrest list,” the official said. “There was a list of people suspected of planning a coup.”

The official added, “Some judges were directly linked to the military faction that staged the failed coup — they would have assumed control of government agencies and courts-martial had the coup succeeded.”

In Brussels, Mr. Kerry noted Mr. Erdogan’s call for the United States to send Mr. Gulen to Turkey.

“I made it clear to the foreign minister there is indeed a very formal process for that, and there has to be a formal extradition request submitted through the appropriate channels, legal channels,” Mr. Kerry said, adding that he had urged his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to “send us evidence, not allegations.”

Mr. Kerry said that the United States had no interest “in standing in the way of appropriately honoring the treaty that we have with Turkey with respect to extradition,” but he emphasized, “we’ve never had such a request, we’ve never had such evidence.”

However, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim suggested to reporters in Ankara that the American request was not reasonable.

“We would be disappointed if our friends told us to present proof, even though members of the assassin organization are trying to destroy an elected government under the directions of that person,” Mr. Yildirim said. “At this stage, there could even be a questioning of our friendship.”

While Turkish officials have acknowledged that the number of purges is excessive, they say that it is necessary to prevent another wave of attacks against civilians and government buildings, especially at a time when some perpetrators are still at large.

“Obviously, the courts will consider evidence and reach their verdicts,” the official said.

The vast scale of purges, especially among security forces, has left Turkish citizens anxious over how the country will maintain stability and order at a time when it is reeling from a string of terrorist attacks by the Islamic State and Kurdish militants that have killed scores of people over the past year.

“The president is calling people out to the streets to stand guard against threats, and people are going, but how is this possible when there are active terrorist cells all over the country?” asked Seda Kapici, a lawyer, who was discussing the weekend’s events with a friend at a coffee shop in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul.

“Everyone is on edge, and with these purges, I don’t know how people are going to be able to go about their normal lives,” she added.

“The Erdogan supporters are sheep, and they will follow whatever he says. But for people like us that use our minds, we get that this means a huge lapse in security,” she said. “We are not safe.”

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