Thursday 8 December 2016

Teachers among 24,000 sacked as Turkey targets coup plotters

Dominique Soguel and Susan Fraser in Istanbul

Published 19/07/2016 | 16:36

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shout slogans and wave Turkish national flags during a pro-government demonstration in Sarachane park in Istanbul, Turkey, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shout slogans and wave Turkish national flags during a pro-government demonstration in Sarachane park in Istanbul, Turkey, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Turkey's Ambassador to Greece, Kerim Uras, speaks during a news conference on the eight Turkish soldiers who requested political asylum in Greece after a failed military coup in Turkey, at the Turkish embassy in Athens, Greece, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Michalis Karagiannis
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shout slogans and wave Turkish national flags during a pro-government demonstration in Sarachane park in Istanbul, Turkey, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Turkey's government has escalated its wide-ranging crackdown against people it claims are linked to plotters in Friday night's attempted coup, sacking nearly 24,000 teachers and Interior Ministry employees across the country.

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It has also demanded the resignations of 1,577 university deans.

The dismissals touched every aspect of government life.

Turkish media, in rapid-fire reports, said the Ministry of Education fired 15,200 people across the country, while the Interior Ministry fired 8,777 employees and Turkey's Board of Higher Education requested the deans' resignations.

In addition, 257 people working at the office of the prime minister were dismissed and the Directorate of Religious Affairs announced it had sacked 492 staff including clerics, preachers and religious teachers.

The firings come on top of the roughly 9,000 people who have been detained by the government, including security personnel, judges, prosecutors, religious figures and others.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said courts have remanded 85 generals and admirals in custody ahead of trials over their roles in the coup attempt. Dozens of others are still being questioned.

Read more: All 'snakes' neutralised following attempted coup, Turkey's military declares

The violence surrounding the coup attempt claimed the lives of 208 government supporters and 24 coup plotters, according to the government.

Turkey said Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric, was behind the coup and has demanded his extradition. Gulen has denied any knowledge of the failed coup.

Those formally arrested include former air force commander General Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the July 15 uprising, and General Adem Hududi, commander of Turkey's Second Army, which is in charge of countering possible threats to Turkey from Syria, Iran and Iraq.

Gen Ozturk has denied the allegation, saying he neither planned nor directed the failed military coup.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Air Force adviser, Lt Col Erkan Kivrak, was detained at a hotel while he was on holiday in Turkey's southern province of Antalya. No reason was given for the detention.

In a bid to calm markets roiled by the coup attempt, Turkey's central bank cut a key interest rate to shore up liquidity in the economy. The bank's Monetary Policy Committee said it has reduced its overnight marginal funding rate from 9% to 8.75%.

President Erdogan, meanwhile, made a series of televised appearances in which he disclosed dramatic details of his survival on the night of the failed coup and raised the prospect of reintroducing the death penalty to punish conspirators.

He told US broadcaster CNN that he narrowly escaped death after coup plotters stormed the resort town of Marmaris where he was on holiday.

"Had I stayed 10, 15 additional minutes, I would have been killed or I would have been taken," he said.

Read more: Turkey coup attempt: President Erdogan warned not to use uprising as 'carte blanche to do whatever he wants'

The president and other officials have strongly suggested the government is considering reinstating the death penalty, a practice abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey's bid to join the European Union. Several European officials have said such a move would be the end of Turkey's attempts to join.

Addressing hundreds of supporters outside his Istanbul residence, Mr Erdogan responded to calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty with the simple statement: "You cannot put aside the people's demands."

"In a country where our youths are killed with tanks and bombs, if we stay silent, as political people we will be held responsible in the afterlife," Mr Erdogan added, pointing out that capital punishment exists around the world, including in the United States and China.

Meanwhile, thousands of officials suspected of links to Gulen were purged from the judiciary and the Interior Ministry.

"No democracy shall allow for soldiers, prosecutors, police, judges, and bureaucrats to take orders from an outside organisation instead of the institutional bureaucracy," Mr Erdogan said.

Turkey's deputy prime minister said dossiers containing details of Gulen's activities have been sent to the US.

Numan Kurtulmus would not provide details about the files but said they include the past actions of the group that Gulen leads. They may also include new evidence that has emerged from the current investigation.

Press Association

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