Turkey purge continues as alleged coup leaders detained

Published July 20th, 2016 - 07:00 GMT
A Pro-Erdogan supporter holds a Turkish national flag during a rally at Taksim Square in Istanbul on July 18, 2016 (AFP/Aris Messinis)
A Pro-Erdogan supporter holds a Turkish national flag during a rally at Taksim Square in Istanbul on July 18, 2016 (AFP/Aris Messinis)

Turkey detained an alleged ringleader of the failed coup and sought the extradition of its alleged mastermind from the US, according to news reports Tuesday, amid widespread dismissals in state institutions.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported the arrest of Muharrem Kose, a colonel and legal counsellor of the military's General Staff. Kose is considered to be a key planner of the attempted putsch on Friday.

The arrest came as Turkey demanded the extradition of the Islamic cleric it believes was behind the coup attempt from the United States.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Turkey had sent the US four dossiers on Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US, according to CNN Turk.

The US confirmed receipt of the documents though declined to say they constituted a formal extradition request.

"I cannot confirm a formal request has been made, but Turkish officials have sent over electronic documents that the US is currently reviewing," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"The US doesn't support individuals who conspired to overthrow democratically elected governments," Earnest said, adding: "There also is due process to which people who live in the United States are entitled to."

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has promised Washington ample evidence linking Gulen to the coup attempt, but asked why the US is demanding so much proof.

"Why do you insist on evidence when it is so clear and obvious anyway, while you did not ask for evidence for Bin Laden?" the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, Turkey's post-coup purge continued. Nearly 29,000 government employees have been suspended in recent days, including more than 6,300 soldiers.

The latest purges include 15,200 people at the Ministry of Education, 257 employees of the prime minister's office and 492 people at the Presidency of Religious Affairs, Turkey's highest governmental religious body, Anadolu reported.

Among the dismissals were nearly 3,000 members of the judiciary, with nearly 1,500 judges and prosecutors arrested.

Among the soldiers arrested were 115 generals. Anadolu reported 650 civilian detainments and 990 civilian arrests. Also, 210 police officers have been suspended.

The Council of Higher Education also was demanding the resignation of 1,577 deans.

Turkey's broadcasting authority has revoked the licences of 24 radio and television stations, accusing them of ties to the Gulenist movement. This follows the blocking of about 20 online news portals in recent days.

The attempted uprising Friday left 173 civilians dead along with 67 members of the security forces, according to an updated death toll published by Anadolu. Nearly 1,491 people - loyalists and civilians - were reported injured.

Erkan Kivrak, described as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's main military aide, has also been taken into custody, Anadolu reported. He is the second high-level aide to the president to be detained.

The office of the chief of staff of the Turkish armed forces vowed to punish "treacherous terrorists" behind the coup attempt.

"Those scoundrels who caused this humiliation and disgrace to the republic of Turkey ... will be punished most severely," a statement read.

In a phone call with Erdogan, US President Barack Obama condemned the coup attempt and offered "appropriate assistance" to Turkish authorities.

But he urged that investigations and prosecution of the coup's perpetrators "be conducted in ways that reinforce public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law," the White House said.

The coup attempt has opened up a debate in Turkey on reinstating the death penalty as a form of punishment for plotters.

Turkey's main right-wing party on Tuesday threw its support behind bringing back capital punishment.

The leader of the National Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, said that if Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were ready to put forth a constitutional measure, then MHP would back it.

Erdogan had said on Monday that he would "approve any decision [on the issue] to come out of the parliament."

Together, both parties would have enough votes to call a referendum on the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004. The referendum would need only a simple majority to pass.

But UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that Turkey has signed on to a binding international agreement aiming to abolish the death penalty.

"I urge the Turkish government to refrain from turning back the clock on human rights protections,” said Zeid.

Reinstituting capital punishment would be diplomatically troubling to many of Turkey's Western allies. The EU, which Turkey has sought to join since 1999, does not allow the death penalty.


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