Turkey extends state of emergency for fifth time

Ankara (AFP) –


The Turkish government on Monday backed a fifth extension of the state of emergency imposed after last year's failed coup, which critics claim is being used to target opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The emergency was extended by another three months as part of the country's fight against terror organisations, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.

Bozdag told reporters in Ankara after a cabinet meeting that the decision was taken to protect the country's "democracy, rule of law and rights and freedoms of our citizens".

The extension was a formality after the National Security Council (MGK) meeting chaired by Erdogan at his presidential palace in Ankara recommended the move.

The decision will now go to parliament to be formally ratified.

The emergency first came into force less than a week after the attempted overthrow of Erdogan on July 15, 2016 and has been used to crack down on those suspected of links to the group blamed for the coup bid, but also outlawed Kurdish militants.

Critics say the emergency has also been used to target government opponents including critical journalists as well as pro-Kurdish critics.

Four extensions -- in October 2016, and January, April and July this year -- have all been for a period of three months. The previous extension was due to end on Thursday.

The emergency gives broad powers to the executive, allowing the Turkish president and his cabinet to rule by decree.

More than 50,000 people have been arrested over suspected links to the movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by the government of ordering the failed coup.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, strongly denies Ankara's claims.

Meanwhile, at least 140,000 people have been sacked or suspended from the public sector including teachers, judges and civil servants through emergency decrees published in the Official Gazette.