Turkish President Suspends, Arrests 50K-Plus People After Failed Coup Attempt

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech in Istanbul, Saturday, July 16, 2016. Forces loyal to Erdogan quashed a coup attempt in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left some hundreds of people dead and scores of others wounded Saturday. The chaos Friday night and Saturday …

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has either suspended or detained nearly 50,000 people as part of a purge of the army, police, and the courts that expanded to universities and schools in the wake of a failed military coup attempt, according to the country’s intelligence service and religious authorities.

“Around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended or detained since the coup attempt, stirring tensions across the country of 80 million which borders Syria’s chaos and is a Western ally against Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL],” reports Reuters.

The news agency did not breakdown the 50,000 figure.

Last Friday’s revolt to overthrow Erdogan’s government was led by several factions of the Turkish army, which sees itself as the guardian of the country’s secular constitution.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, “all terrorist elements” behind the attempted coup “had been suppressed nationwide, announced Turkey’s military in a written statement released Tuesday morning, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

“The necessary response had been given to the snakes in our midst,” noted the statement.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus denied claims that 14 naval ships were missing and their commanders were seeking to defect, according to Reuters.

The deputy PM noted that “9,322 people were under legal proceedings in relation to the attempted coup,” notes the news agency, adding “Eight soldiers have sought asylum in neighboring Greece and Turkey says they must be handed back or it will not help relations between the neighbors, which have long been uneasy.”

Citing official government figures, AP reports the coup attempt resulted in the death of 232 people, adding that another 1,541 were injured.

Reuters reports:

The army general staff said it would punish ‘in the most severe way’ any members of the armed forces responsible for what it called ‘this disgrace,’ adding that most had nothing to do with the coup…

Erdogan has repeatedly called for parliament to consider his supporters’ demands to apply the death penalty [scrapped in 2004] for the plotters.

Turkey’s president blames U.S.-based Islamist guru Fethullah Gulen, 75, for the abortive coup last week. The accusation comes nearly two months after the Erdogan officially deemed Gulen’s Islamist movement a terrorist organization.

“On Tuesday, authorities shut down media outlets deemed to be supportive of the cleric and said 15,000 people had been fired from the education ministry, 492 from the Religious Affairs Directorate, 257 from the prime minister’s office and 100 intelligence officials,” reports Reuters.

AP adds that Turkey’s Family and Social Policy Ministry also dismissed 393 people for alleged links to Gulen.

In the wake of the coup attempt, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reportedly vowed to remove the Gulen movement.

The Turkish president has repeatedly accused the movement of trying to topple his government.

“We will dig them up by their roots,” Yildirim told parliament.

Erdogan has accused Imam Gulen of conspiring to remove him from office by assembling a network of supporters in the media, judiciary, and education sectors of the country.

The Sunni imam has blamed Erdogan for allegedly staging the attempted coup as an excuse to crackdown on dissidents, echoing comments made by former CIA director James Woolsey in an interview with Fox News.

Reuters notes that a spokesman for Erdogan has said that the Turkish government is planning to make a formal request to the United States for the extradition of Gulen who has harshly condemned the coup attempt.

On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that the Obama administration would consider such a request, adding that Turkey would have to prove the wrongdoing of Gulen, who left his native Turkey in 1999.

Turkey claims to have evidence that the imam organized the revolt. Erdogan has urged the United States to extradite the imam.

Gulen was Erdogan’s ally at one point, but their relationship ended when police and prosecutors considered to be the imam’s supporters launched an investigation into the president’s inner circle in 2013, 11 years after the president’s AK Party took office.

The imam has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for more than  a decade, to avoid criminal prosecution in Turkey.

Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, described the Gulen movement as a “kind of a Turkish Islamic supremacist cult.”



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