Erdogan purge deepens

Erdogan purge deepens

US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta addresses US Air Force crew at Incirlik Air Base in 2012. The US presence there is now in jeopardy. Source: Wikimedia

Almost 8,000 police officers have been suspended on suspicion of involvement with Friday’s failed coup.

Around 6,000 members of the judiciary and military, including several generals, have been arrested. At least 11 news portals associated with the opposition have been closed down.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to purge state bodies of the “virus” that had caused the revolt. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that 208 “martyrs” had lost their lives, including 60 police officers, three soldiers and 145 civilians. Another 1,491 were injured, he said. Twenty-four alleged coup plotters died, Yildirim said.

Since the coup, 103 generals and admirals have been arrested, 2,389 soldiers detained, 2,745 judges and prosecutors incarcerated and 8,777 Interior Ministry officials suspended.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has stressed the importance of democratic procedures. Kerry said the US backed the elected leadership in Turkey: “We will certainly support bringing perpetrators of the coup to justice but we also caution against a reach that goes well beyond that.”

Fethullah Gulen, the notorious cleric who fled to the US and was a close ally of Erdogan for years, was allegedly responsible for the coup, according to Ankara. Yildirim has warned that requiring “evidence” before extraditing Gulen would call Washington’s friendship with Turkey into doubt.

Turkey’s relations with Ankara were already strained by US support for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG has proved itself to be the most effective force fighting Isis in Syria, but it is closely linked to the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, that has been fighting the Turkish authorities for decades.

Police raided Incirlik air base near the Syrian border on Monday, from where US raids against Islamic State are launched although flights are now restricted.

The air force academy in Istanbul was also raided on Monday.

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk has been named as a suspected coup leader.

Some observers have suggested that Ankara may seal off the base if America refuses to hand over Gulen. The authorities knew where to find Gulen supporters, partly because it helped them take positions within the police when they worked together.

When the falling out with the Gulen movement occurred in 2013, thousands of officers were moved sideways into roles where they would not harm Erdogan’s AK party.

Many provincial governors and judges have also been suspended.

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