World calls for Turkey to respect rule of law as 6 000 detained in ruthless crackdown
Turkish authorities yesterday pressed on with a ruthless crackdown against suspects in the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with 6 000 people, including generals, detained in action that has sparked international concern.
World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have strongly condemned the attempted putsch.
But they also urged Turkey to respect the rule of law in its aftermath, especially after pictures emerged showing the rough treatment of some coup plotters when arrested.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said yesterday that about 6 000 people had been detained and the number would rise.
“The cleanup operations are continuing,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
According to the government, 161 civilians and regular troops lost their lives when a group within the army sought to overthrow the authorities late on Friday.
More than 100 coup plotters were also killed, the military has said.
The botched coup bid was the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s rule in his 13 years as prime minister and now president.
But he mobilised supporters into the streets to face down the plotters.
Thousands also responded late on Saturday to a new call by the president to pour into the squares to celebrate the “victory of democracy”.
Europe Minister Omer Celik urged people to stay on the streets, writing on Twitter that the “vigil for democracy” continues.
The Turkish authorities have made clear they will show no mercy in the wake of the coup, accusing the plotters of acting on behalf of Erdogan’s arch enemy, US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
This has sparked some international concern that the country could re-establish its death penalty, abolished in 2004.
Turkish television has shown images of captured suspects forced to lie face down on the tarmac after their arrest while photographers have seen suspects roughly led away pursued by angry mobs.
NTV television said 34 generals of various grades had been detained so far.
They include senior figures like Erdal Ozturk, commander of the third army and the commander of the Malatya-based second army, Adem Huduti.
In an operation early yesterday, authorities detained the commander of the garrison in the western town of Denizli, Ozhan Ozbakir, along with 51 other soldiers.
Turkey also detained an air force general and other officers accused at a key air base used by US forces for raids in Syria.
Former chief of staff Ilker Basbug told Dogan news agency that Turkey should make a distinction between the coup planners and young soldiers “of 20 years old who may have been mistaken”.
Turkey has also demanded the extradition of eight people thought to have been involved in the putsch who landed in a Black Hawk military helicopter in Greece.
The crackdown is not restricted to the military and Anadolu said prosecutors had issued arrest warrants for a total of 2 745 judges and prosecutors.
The entire investigation is being led by Ankara prosecutors and those arrested are suspected of belonging to Gulen’s group, which Turkey dubs the “Fethullahci Terror Organisation”.
But Gulen’s supporters say their group, which they call Hizmet (Service), is entirely peaceful.
Obama has warned Turkey there was a vital need for all parties to act within the rule of law in the aftermath of the coup.
Friday’s putsch bid began with rebel F-16 jets screaming over rooftops in Ankara and soldiers and tanks taking to the streets.
Rebel troops also moved to block the two bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul.
Turks have not seen such scenes since 1980, when the military led by general Kenan Evren ousted the government, and many at the weekend had no desire to revive these memories.
Erdogan has pinned the blame on Gulen, an erstwhile ally he accuses of running a “parallel state”, and called on Obama to extradite the reclusive preacher.
In a TV interview, Labour Minister Suleyman Soylu went as far as saying that the US “is behind the coup” and Gulen should be handed over urgently.