Friday 21 October 2016

Turkish president hits out at Western countries for 'supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups'

Published 02/08/2016 | 19:20

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised those who 'supported' the coup
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised those who 'supported' the coup

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again attacked unnamed Western countries for what he said was support for the attempted coup on July 15 that left more than 270 people dead.

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"The West is supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups," Mr Erdogan said, adding that forces unhappy with Turkey's rise as a regional power were behind the coup.

"They have actors inside (Turkey) but the scenario of this coup was written abroad," he added during a speech at an event for foreign investors in Ankara.

The Turkish government says the coup was instigated by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally now living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Turkey has demanded his extradition, but Washington has asked for evidence of the cleric's involvement.

Mr Erdogan said about the US request: "We did not request documents for terrorists that you wanted returned."

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown on Mr Gulen's movement, which it characterises as a terrorist organisation.

Nearly 70,000 people have been suspended from their jobs on suspicion of being involved in the movement, which runs schools, charities and businesses internationally.

Mr Erdogan has also singled out Germany for criticism, after a court there ruled against allowing him to appear on a video link to address a crowd of about 30,000 supporters and anti-coup demonstrators in Cologne over the weekend.

The president said Turkey had sent Germany more than 4,000 files on what he said were wanted terrorists, but Germany did nothing. However, he said, courts quickly decided against him speaking at the rally.

Pro-government supporters waving Turkish flags protest on the road leading to Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge (AP)
Pro-government supporters waving Turkish flags protest on the road leading to Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge (AP)

Germany's Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment, but German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel defended the court's decision as "absolutely OK and also lawful".

Mr Erdogan also repeated a complaint that no foreign leader had visited Turkey after the failed coup, while France and Belgium received visits in solidarity after terror attacks there.

"Those we considered friends are siding with coup-plotters and terrorists," he said.

When it was allied with Mr Erdogan's government in the past, the Gulen movement was believed to have been behind a series of crackdowns on pro-secular figures as well as military officers accused at the time of plotting a coup.

Hundreds were jailed after trials in which evidence was later found to have been fabricated. Many convictions have been overturned.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag sent a second document to the United States on Tuesday seeking Mr Gulen's arrest, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

He said: "They requested certain information following our first letter; we provided answers to the question 'why is it urgent?'"

He added that Turkey had intelligence indicating Mr Gulen might leave for a third country. If he does, Mr Bozdag said, it would only be with the full knowledge of US authorities.

Part of the crackdown against Mr Gulen's network has focused on reforming the military, bringing it increasingly under civilian command.

About 18,000 people have been detained or arrested, most of them from the military, and authorities have said the purge will continue.

The government has already decreed sweeping changes to the military, including giving the president and prime minister the power to issue direct orders to the force commanders.

"These arrangements won't weaken the Turkish Armed Forces, on the contrary they will strengthen them and prepare them to face all kinds of threats," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in an address to his ruling party legislators.

"The armed forces will focus their energies on their fundamental duty."

Several countries and rights organisations have expressed concern over the scope of the crackdown, and have urged restraint.

However, Mr Erdogan insisted the purges of the civil service, military and other sectors were necessary to find those responsible for the coup.

"If we show pity to these murderers, to these coup plotters, we will end up in a pitiful state," he said.

On Tuesday, the Turkish Football federation said it had sacked 94 people, including a number of referees.

It said the action was taken as a "necessity", without saying whether those dismissed were suspected of links to the Gulen movement.

Separately, authorities issued 98 new detention warrants, including for military doctors, a senior government official said.

Meanwhile, a lawyer filed a criminal complaint against General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff; US National Intelligence director James Clapper and General Joseph Votel, the top US commander for the Middle East, accusing them of backing Mr Gulen.

The complaint, which has to be accepted by prosecutors before any action is taken, came days after Mr Erdogan told Mr Votel to "know your place" after he expressed concern that the post-coup crackdown may affect the fight against Islamic State militants.

Press Association

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