Tuesday 16 January 2018

Coup plotters purge raises tensions between Turkey and west

A man walks past Taksim Monument in Istanbul, Turkey, as warplanes continue to patrol the skies following Friday's failed coup (AP)
A man walks past Taksim Monument in Istanbul, Turkey, as warplanes continue to patrol the skies following Friday's failed coup (AP)

The purging of thousands of alleged plotters of a failed coup in Turkey has raised tensions between the country's leaders and the west.

US and European officials are urging restraint, while Ankara insists Washington should extradite an exile accused of orchestrating the plot.

Turkish authorities have dismissed nearly 9,000 police officers, public officials and others, while detaining thousands more alleged to have been involved in Friday night's attempted coup.

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the uprising, was placed under arrest following questioning by a magistrate along with 25 other suspects, reports said.

Mr Ozturk, who has denied involvement and insisted he had tried to suppress the rebellion, appeared in a video looking bruised, with a bandage over his ear.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to rule out bringing back the death penalty, telling broadcaster CNN: "There is a clear crime of treason."

He added that it would be up to parliament to make the decision.

Reports claimed 8,777 employees attached to the interior ministry were sacked, including 30 governors, 52 civil service inspectors and 16 legal advisers.

Other media reports said police, military police and members of the coast guard were also removed from duty.

During the uprising by a faction of the military, warplanes fired on government buildings and tanks rolled into the streets of major cities before the rebellion was put down by forces loyal to the government and civilians who took to the streets.

The military top brass did not support the coup.

Prime minister Binali Yildirim said 232 people - 208 government supporters he called "martyrs", as well as 24 coup plotters - died in the unrest.

His voice cracked and he wept as he spoke with reporters after a Cabinet meeting and repeated a question his grandson had put to him: "Why are they killing people?"

Mr Yildirim said he had no answer, but that Turkey would make the coup plotters answer "in such a way that the whole world will see".

As western officials expressed alarm at the rapid round-up of so many by their key Nato ally, Turkish government officials explained that the plotters in the military had been under investigation and launched their poorly-planned operation out of panic.

The swift move against so many reflected the prior investigation, the government said.

It alleged the coup conspirators were loyal to moderate cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who lives in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, and espouses a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with democracy.

Mr Erdogan has often accused Mr Gulen of trying to overthrow the government, and Turkey has demanded his extradition, labelling his movement a terrorist organisation and putting him on trial in absentia.

Mr Gulen strongly denies the government's charges and has suggested that Friday's attempted coup could have been staged, as a pretext for the government to seize even more power.

US officials have said that the US will consider extraditing Mr Gulen, if the Turkish government offers evidence that he was involved in the plot or committed crimes.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US would follow procedures in a decades-old extradition treaty and called Turkish charges that the US was harbouring Gulen "factually incorrect".

Mr Yildirim said the normal US legal processes would not be good enough.

He said: "We would be disillusioned and would question our friendship if our friends were to say to us, 'Show us the evidence,' despite all the efforts ... to eradicate the elected government and the national will of a country."

He also added that the justice ministry is preparing documents to send to the United States.

Over the weekend, Turkey responded to the coup attempt by rounding up some 6,000 people, including hundreds of judges and prosecutors.

Reacting to the large number of arrests in the military and the judiciary, as well as Mr Erdogan's suggestion that Turkey could bring back the death penalty, western officials are urging Turkey to maintain the rule of law.


Press Association

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