Tuesday 24 April 2018

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

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)

Henry Bodkin

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was warned by world leaders not to use the attempted coup as “carte blanche to do whatever he wants," amid concerns the putsch has become a pretext for him to consolidate power.

Mr Erdogan moved rapidly over the weekend to round up his adversaries, arresting more than 6,000 soldiers, including senior military leaders, and judges, suspected of involvement.

So many soldiers have been detained that the lower ranked conscripts have been locked in schools and gymnasiums in the capital, Ankara.

With expectations growing of heavy measures against dissent, European politicians warned Mr Erdogan that the coup attempt did not give him a “blank cheque” to disregard the rule of law.

Mr Erdogan has hinted he may reintroduce the death penalty, which the country abolished in 2004 in line with its bid to join the European Union.

Guenther Oettinger, the European Commissioner, said Mr Erdogan would move Turkey away from the core values represented by the EU and the Nato defence alliance, of which Turkey has been a crucial member in the fight against Isil, if he decided to use the attempted coup to restrict basic democratic rights further.

"He would strengthen his position domestically, but he would isolate himself internationally,” he warned.

Read more: 'I heard people crying in the hallways' - Dublin mum describes her horror at Turkey coup

Women watch the funeral of a victim of the failed coup. Photo: Getty
Women watch the funeral of a victim of the failed coup. Photo: Getty

President Barack Obama said he was concerned by pictures showing the rough treatment of some of the arrested coup plotters, some of whom appeared stripped to their underwear and handcuffed behind their backs.

But a resurgent Mr Erodgan responded defiantly on Sunday, telling a crowd of supporters attending a funeral of a loyalist killed on Friday night, that he would “clean the virus” from all the state bodies.

He said Turkey would request an extradition order for Fethullah Gulen, an Islamist cleric and longtime foe of the president who lives in self-imposed exile in the US, so that he could stand trial in Ankara.

Mr Gulen said on Sunday he would obey any extradition ruling from the United States. He has insisted that he had nothing to do with the uprising and suggested that Mr Erdogan could have staged the attack himself in order to legitimise a fresh crackdown on the judiciary and military.

The thousands gathered at the funeral bayed for revenge, calling for the return of the death penalty to punish the “Gulenist plotters”.

“Let them hang, they are worse than Isis and worse than the Kurds," they said, referring to the minority group which has militias waging attacks on the Turkish state.

Read more: 'This uprising is a gift from God ' - Turkey rounds up plot suspects as failed coup strengthens Turkey's President

While the government has been keen to suggest a small band of low-ranking dissenters were behind the coup, a new report and the released names of military figures linked to the plot suggest it ran much deeper.

Akın Öztürk, the man thought to have been the mastermind, is former air forces commander and Turkish Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) member.

He led a group which included the president’s own top military adviser, the commander of the main air base used by US troops to launch air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria, and the commander of the powerful Second Army.

According to the report, which appeared in the local Cumhuriyet newspaper, the 300 putschists had heard that the Turkish government was about to issue arrest warrants for soldiers accused of supporting Mr Gulen. So, they advanced their plans to Friday night when Mr Erdogan was away on holiday in what would turn out to be a doomed attempt to catch the government before it caught them.

The report would explain why the events unravelled so quickly. “The beginning of the coup felt very rushed, but the planning of it was not. That's important,” Oktay Vural, MP from the nationalist opposition party MHP, told The Telegraph. 

It emerged on Sunday that at the height of the attempt to topple the president, the rebel pilots of two F-16 fighter jets had Mr Erdogan's plane in their sights.

The Turkish leader was returning to Istanbul from the coastal resort of Marmaris when at least two F-16s harassed Mr Erdogan's plane while it was in the air and en route to Istanbul.

Read more: In times of stress, Turkey and the West only come closer together

"Why they didn't fire is a mystery," one former military officer with knowledge of the event said.

Mr Erdogan said as the coup unfolded that the plotters had tried to attack him and had bombed places he had been at shortly after he left. He "evaded death by minutes".

Around 25 soldiers in helicopters descended on his hotel in Marmaris on ropes, shooting, just after Mr Erdogan had left in an apparent attempt to seize him.

Around a dozen individuals have been named as among the coup plotters, but in Mr Erdogan's Turkey it is difficult to distinguish between real foe and political challenger. Among the names was Ali Yazici, Erdogan’s military aide, who, if confirmed to be true, would be the closest to Erdogan's inner circle to have been involved in the plot.

Eight soldiers who fled to Greece in a helicopter to seek asylum on Friday night claimed on Sunday that they had no role in the plot at all.  Their lawyer said the officers were ordered to carry injured people, and that shortly after hearing about the coup they were fired at by police and crossed the border, emitting a distress signal.


Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News