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Turkey arrests surpass 7,500 after failed coup attempt

Ozan Kose, AFP | An armed Turkish special forces police officer patrols near a mosque as the Turkish president attends the funeral of one of the victims of the coup attempt in Istanbul on July 17, 2016
6 min

Turkey widened a crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed military coup on Sunday, taking the number of people rounded up in the armed forces and judiciary to 6,000, and the government said it was in control of the country and economy.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to wipe out the "virus" of the putschists after facing down the coup bid by elements of the military disgruntled with what they see as his increasingly iron-fisted 13-year rule.

But the United States and European Union have sternly warned him against excessive retribution as the authorities round up the alleged perpetrators of Friday's attempted power grab.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman denounced "revolting scenes of caprice and revenge against soldiers on the streets" after disturbing pictures emerged of the treatment of some detained suspects.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said over 7,500 people have been detained so far, including 103 generals and admirals, in the investigation into Friday's coup which Erdogan has blamed on his arch-enemy, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The interior ministry said almost 9,000 police, municipal governors and other officials had also been dismissed in a widening purge.

Early Monday, special Istanbul anti-terror police units raided the prestigious air force military academy, detaining four suspects, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The authorities have also detained General Mehmet Disli, who conducted the operation to capture chief-of-staff Hulusi Akar during the stand-off, an official said.

The 103 generals detained are accused of seeking to violate the constitution and attempting to overthrow the authorities by force, as well what the authorities call the Fethullahci Terror Organisation (FETO) led by Gulen.

Erdogan has urged citizens to remain on the streets even after the defeat of the coup, in what the authorities describe as a "vigil" for democracy.

Thousands of pro-Erdogan supporters waving Turkish flags filled the main Kizilay Square in Ankara while similar scenes were seen in Taksim Square in Istanbul.

According to Anadolu, 1,800 additional elite special police forces have been drafted in from surrounding provinces to ensure security in Istanbul.

Eleven soldiers suspected of involvement in the coup were detained Sunday at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, with authorities firing warning shots in the air, a Turkish official said.

'Pay the price'

Western leaders have urged Turkey to follow the rule of law in the wake of the coup bid, with the massive retaliatory purge adding to concerns about human rights and democracy in the NATO member state.

"We also urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation's democratic institutions and the rule of law," US Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference after talks with EU foreign ministers.

Responding to the criticism, Yildirim said the plotters would be brought to account but Turkey would "act within the law".

But Erdogan added fuel to the fire on Sunday when he told supporters that Turkey could consider reintroducing the death penalty which it had abolished in 2004 as part of its longstanding EU membership bid.

"We cannot delay this anymore because in this country, those who launch a coup will have to pay the price for it," he said.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini responded bluntly on Monday.

"Let me be very clear... no country can become an EU state if it introduces the death penalty," she said.

There has also been concern about the nature of the arrests which have appeared aimed at humiliating the suspects.

Turkish television has shown images of captured suspects forced to lie face down on the tarmac after their arrest while AFP photographers have seen suspects roughly led away, pursued by angry mobs.

Anadolu published pictures of the arrest of former air force commander Akin Ozturk bent forwards, facing a wall with hands tied behind his back.

'Eliminate virus'

The turbulence has raised concern about the stability of Turkey, a key NATO member which is also part of the international coalition against Islamic State jihadists in Syria.

It has also hit financial markets, with the lira at one point losing five percent in value against the dollar although it rallied slightly on Monday.

Erdogan has long accused Gulen of running a "parallel state" in Turkey, and called on Obama to extradite the reclusive preacher from the United States to face justice.

"We will continue to clean the virus from all state bodies because this virus has spread. Unfortunately like a cancer, this virus has enveloped the state," Erdogan said on Sunday.

The reclusive 75-year-old preacher has categorically denied any involvement in the plot and suggested it could have been staged by Erdogan himself.

Kerry said he had urged his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to "send us evidence, not allegations."

Yildirim said 208 people were killed during the coup bid, including 145 civilians, 60 police and three loyalist soldiers. In addition, the military said 104 coup plotters were killed.


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