Erdogan implements crackdown following failed coup attempt

Published July 17th, 2016 - 06:00 GMT
People take to the street in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan July 16, 2016.
People take to the street in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan July 16, 2016.

The Turkish government was reasserting its authority Saturday with a massive clampdown after a failed coup attempt, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan laid the blame squarely at the feet of his rival Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan, speaking to a crowd in Istanbul, called on the United States to either arrest or extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric based in Pennsylvania, despite Gulen's earlier condemnation of the coup.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Luxembourg that the US had not yet received a formal application, but would consider "any legitimate evidence."

Gulen is a one-time ally who fell out of favour with Erdogan for allegedly orchestrating a corruption scandal in 2012 and running a "parallel state."

As a sign of defiance against Friday night's attempted putsch, Turkey's parliament convened in Ankara in the parliament building damaged during the coup attempt, in a rare show of unity across party lines.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim attended the session and was greeted with applause as he entered, shaking the hands of some opposition politicians.

All four political parties represented in the parliament - who all opposed the coup attempt - had members attending the session.

The opposition used the opportunity to also call for a strengthening of democracy in the country.

A total of 265 people were killed in the attempted coup that played out overnight across Turkey, Yildirim said earlier Saturday, among them 161 government forces and civilians.

Arrests were ongoing, including high-ranking officials, with at least two Constitutional Court judges and two of the four army division generals in detention as well as 2,839 military personnel.

Turkey's top judicial body HSYK also dismissed 2,745 judges on Saturday, according to state-run Anadolu news agency. Additionally, 10 members of the HSYK have been detained.

Meanwhile, the US consulate in the southern city of Adana said on its website that Incirlik airbase, which is used for the US-led coalition bombing campaign against the Islamic State extremist organization, had been sealed off and the power to the facility cut.

The Pentagon said it was working with the Turks "to resume air operations there as soon as possible."

Aircraft in Turkey were hijacked by coup plotters during the overnight events and, according to government officials, used to attack key buildings, including the parliament building.

People took to the streets of Istanbul, lining the sides of major roads and waving the red and white Turkish flag in support of the civilian government during the course of Saturday.

Erdogan was photographed by Anadolu meeting and greeting supporters on the Asian side of Istanbul.

The coup started as elements in the military made large-scale deployments in Ankara and Istanbul as well as other cities, shutting down key bridges and taking control of Istanbul's Ataturk international airport.

Erdogan appeared on broadcaster CNN Turk calling for citizens to take to the streets to protest the rebellion.

The uprising appeared to have been largely crushed after aerial bombings, military blockades and clashes between mobs and armed forces were reported overnight across Turkey.

Government officials said 104 of those killed were coup plotters or sympathizers. Yildirim said 1,140 people had also been injured.

"I welcome the strong support shown by the people and all political parties to democracy and to the democratically elected [government] of Turkey," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

US President Barack Obama called for the parties in Turkey to "act within the rule of law and to avoid actions that would lead to further violence or instability."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel "fiercely" condemned the attempted coup.

"It is and will stay the right of the people to decide their leader through free elections."

Amnesty International urged Turkey not to use the death penalty against detained putschists after government supporters chanted during demonstrations for the use of capital punishment.

Responding to supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said the death penalty question was a matter for parliament, noting that "it is a right in a democratic country that each demand be assessed, discussed and debated."

The attempted coup was carried out by "a group within the military" acting "outside of the chain of command," the president's office said earlier.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his Greek counterpart has promised to "soon" extradite eight military members involved in the coup attempt who fled to Greece, Anadolu reported.

Turkish military personnel arrived in the Greek port city of Alexandroupolis late Saturday to retrieve the Black Hawk helicopter used by the eight apparent putschists in their bid for political asylum.

By Can Merey and Shabtai Gold

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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