Turkey faces Nato suspension following post-coup crackdown
Published 19/07/2016 | 02:30
Turkey was warned yesterday that it could face international isolation, including suspension from Nato, as world leaders told the country's authoritarian president not to overplay his hand after the failed coup.
Following a 'night of the long knives' that saw thousands arrested or dismissed from their posts on suspicion of involvement in the putsch, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, led calls from both the United States and the European Union for restraint.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's widespread purge has reinforced worries in the West about democratic backsliding in Turkey.
Mr Kerry, speaking from Brussels, stressed that Nato had a requirement when it came to democracy and "will measure very carefully what is happening".
"A lot of people have been arrested and arrested very quickly," he said, adding that "the level of vigilance and scrutiny is obviously going to be significant in the days ahead."
Turkey is already at odds with Washington over the extradition of the exiled Islamic cleric accused by Mr Erdogan's government of masterminding the coup.
Ankara has demanded that Fethullah Gulen, a longtime opponent of Mr Erdogan, who is living in Pennsylvania, be handed over for trial.
Mr Kerry said they must first provide evidence for their allegations, which Mr Gulen denies.
A decision to oust the country of almost 80 million from Nato would not be taken lightly.
Turkey has the second-largest army in the security alliance and has a vital role in the war against Isil, as well as in stemming the tide of refugees.
EU officials also warned yesterday that talks on Turkey's bid to join the bloc would end if the country restored the death penalty, as Mr Erdogan has proposed to deal with the plotters.
Turkey has not executed anyone since 1984 and capital punishment was legally abolished in 2004 as part of its bid to join the Brussels club.
Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner dealing with its long-stalled ascension bid, accused Mr Erdogan of having planned the purge of opponents before the coup, as part of a bid to consolidate power and "clean house".
"The fact the [arrest warrant] lists were available already after the event indicates that this was prepared and at a certain moment should be used," he said.
Within hours of the revolt's failure on Friday night, which left 290 dead and 1,400 wounded, more than 6,000 members of the military were rounded up and detained.
Yesterday the government arrested a further 103 generals, dismissed 9,000 civil servants, 8,000 police officers, 30 of Turkey's 80 provincial governors, as well as a huge swathe of the judiciary that has at times blocked Mr Erdogan.
One third of all the country's military and navy generals and admirals have been detained and almost every major military unit across the country has lost a commander.
More than 100 high-ranking officers have so far been charged with "high treason" and face what might become a trial for their lives.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel added that the wave of arrests and the treatment of detainees ordered by the president - the first in Turkey to survive an armed challenge - was "a cause for great concern".
The military officials accused of masterminding the failed coup were yesterday paraded on camera with their hands bound and ordered to give their name and rank before being taken to be interrogated.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, said the international criticism about the treatment of suspects amounted to support for the failed coup. "We strongly condemn and reject statements that imply that the principles of the rule of law could be violated and political opponents could be arbitrarily treated," he said.
Among them was "leading Gulenist" Akin Ozturk, head of the air force until 2015 and a member of the High Military Council.
A state-run media agency reported that he confessed to prosecutors to being one of the chief plotters.
However, a private broadcaster said Mr Ozturk, who has served as a military attaché to Israel, claimed he had tried to stop the coup.
"I am not someone who has planned or directed the coup attempt that was carried out on July 15 and I don't know who did," he was cited as saying in his testimony.
He appeared dishevelled and had several injuries to his head and upper body, suggesting he had been roughly handled by police.
While the government has claimed the coup is over, there were signs yesterday that the rebellion had not been completely snuffed out.
An unknown assailant shot the deputy mayor of Istanbul's Sisli district in the head, leaving him in a critical condition. In Ankara, Turkish security forces killed an armed attacker who shot at them from a vehicle outside the city's courthouse where suspects from the failed coup were appearing.
The political affiliation of the leaders of the coup is still unclear, though President Erdogan was quick to blame Mr Gulen's moderate Muslim 'Hizmet' movement, which his government commonly calls "the parallel state structure". The group has some support among the Anatolian middle class.
"No matter who they arrest now, they are all labelled as Gulenists," said Mahir Zeynalov, a commentator with the daily Turkish newspaper 'Zaman'.
"Most Gulen followers had already been purged from bureaucracy, judiciary and particularly from security apparatus," he said, suggesting the government was using the revolt as an excuse to eliminate all dissent. (©Daily Telegraph, London)