38,000 prisoners freed in Turkey

  • 18/08/2016
Thousands of people suspected of being involved in the coup attempt have been detained (Reuters)
Thousands of people suspected of being involved in the coup attempt have been detained (Reuters)

Turkey is freeing 38,000 prisoners, after announcing a penal reform that will make space for tens of thousands of suspects rounded up over July's attempted coup.

The reform is one of two decrees under a state of emergency declared after the July 15 failed uprising in which 240 people were killed.

The government gave no reason for measure, but its prisons were already straining capacity before the mass arrests that followed the coup.

Western allies worry President Tayyip Erdogan, already accused by opponents of creeping authoritarianism, is using the crackdown to target dissent.

Angrily dismissing those concerns, Turkish officials say they are rooting out a serious internal threat from followers of a popular Turkish leader now based in the United States - Fethullah Gulen.

Wednesday's decrees, published in the Official Gazette, also ordered the dismissal of 2,360 more police officers, more than 100 military personnel and 196 staff at Turkey's information and communication technology authority, BTK.

Those dismissed were said to have links to cleric Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan turned enemy. Erdogan says Gulen was behind the attempt by rogue troops using tanks and jets to overthrow the government. Gulen denies involvement.

Alongside tens of thousands of civil servants suspended or dismissed, more than 35,000 people have been detained in the purge. Judges, journalists, police, and teachers are among those targeted for suspected links to Gulen's movement.

Western criticism of the purge and Ankara's demands that the United States send Gulen home have already frayed ties with Washington and the European Union, increasing tensions over an EU deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants.

Incensed over a perceived lack of Western sympathy over the coup attempt, Erdogan has revived relations with Russia, a detente Western officials worry may be used by both leaders to pressure the European Union and NATO.