Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told FRANCE 24 that his country’s state of emergency, imposed in the wake of an attempted coup to oust him could be extended until he has rid Turkey’s “institutions of this cancer”.
Turkey launched a sweeping crackdown following the failed July 15 insurrection, declaring a three-month state of emergency and detaining or dismissing 33,000 people in the military and other state institutions.
In the latest measures, the government revoked nearly 11,000 passports and detained 283 members of the presidential guard, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Later Saturday, authorities announced that the whole presidential guard would be disbanded.
Turkey alleges that the coup attempt by some military units, in which 246 people were killed, was conceived by Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.
“They [the coup leaders] were given instructions from Pennsylvania, and they are starting to confess,” Erdogan said in an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24. “They even tried to get the army chief of staff, who was being held hostage, to speak to Gülen directly.”
Gülen has denied any prior knowledge of the coup attempt.
“We have been confronted with separatist terrorist organisations for years, 45,000 people have died,” Erdogan said. “We will continue operations against these separatists. We have to rid our institutions of this cancer.”
Erdogan justified the imposition of a state of emergency, with probable extensions, noting that France’s own state of emergency, imposed after the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks, has been extended for another six months.
“There is no obstacle in terms of prolonging it. Initially of course it is three months, but after three months we can ask for a second three-month period and extend it.”
“My nation, my people, shouldn't have the slightest concern,” he added. “Everything is on track and the state of emergency is simply for the purpose of the healthy functioning of our democratic institutions. Our public institutions will function more smoothly."
Under its state of emergency, Turkey can hold suspects in detention without charge for up to 30 days before being taken to a judge to decide whether to remand them in custody.
On Saturday, Erdogan ordered the closure of 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions, Anadolu said.
All the institutions are suspected of having links to Gülen.
The country’s state news agency, Anadolu, also reported that Turkey had detained Gülen’s nephew, Muhammed Sait Gülen, for questioning. According to Anadolu, some of the charges that could be brought against Gülen’s relative include being a member of a terrorist organisation. A key Gülen aide was also reported to have been captured.