Turkey: Purge sees thousands lose jobs following failed coup

  • 20/07/2016
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Getty)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Getty)

Turkey is vowing to root out allies of the US-based cleric it blames for an abortive coup last week, widening a purge of the army, police and judiciary to the education sector, intelligence agency and religious authorities.

President Tayyip Erdogan and the government accuse Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating a failed military takeover on Friday in which at least 232 people were killed, and have called in speeches for his extradition from the United States.

Erdogan's spokesman said a formal extradition request was being prepared.

Authorities have suspended or detained close to 35,000 soldiers, police, judges and civil servants since the coup bid, stirring tensions across the country of 80 million which borders Syria's chaos and is a key Western ally against Islamic State.

Turkey's education ministry revoked 21,000 teachers' licences, an official at the ministry said. The High Education Board had ordered the resignation of 1577 deans at all universities across Turkey.

Authorities also shut down media outlets deemed 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.

Turkey's Western allies have expressed solidarity with the government but also alarm at the scale and swiftness of the response, urging the country to adhere to democratic values.

Seventy-five-year-old Mr Gulen, a former ally of Mr Erdogan who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denied any involvement in the coup bid, and has suggested the president staged it as an excuse for a crackdown.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim accused Washington of double standards in its fight against terrorism and said the justice ministry sent a dossier to US authorities on Mr Gulen, whose religious movement blends conservative, Islamic values with a pro-Western outlook and who has a network of supporters within Turkey.

Ankara says followers of Mr Gulen have infiltrated Turkey's institutions and are running a "parallel state".

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus denied reports 14 naval vessels were missing and their commanders were seeking to defect. Mr Kurtulmus also told reporters 9322 people were under legal proceedings.

In a defiant speech in parliament, Mr Yildirim said the fact civilians had been targeted made it unprecedented in the history of Turkey, which last saw a violent coup more than 30 years ago.

Around 1400 people were wounded as soldiers commandeered tanks, attack helicopters and warplanes, strafing parliament and the intelligence headquarters and trying to seize the main airport and bridges in Istanbul.

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.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, voiced "serious alarm" and urged Turkey to allow independent monitors to visit those detained.

The foreign ministry has said criticism of the government's response amounts to backing the coup.

Turkey scrapped capital punishment in 2004 as part of its push to join the European Union, but in the coup aftermath, Mr Erdogan has repeatedly called for parliament to consider his supporters' demands to apply the death penalty for the plotters.

Officials in Ankara say former air force chief Akin Ozturk, who has appeared in detention with his face and arms bruised and one ear bandaged, was a co-leader of the coup.