Turkish purges spread to police forces in the wake of quashed coup

By Hugh Naylor, Erin Cunningham

A civilian spits at a member of Turkey armed forces as he is escorted by police with a group of others for their suspected involvement in Friday's attempted coup. Photo / AP
A civilian spits at a member of Turkey armed forces as he is escorted by police with a group of others for their suspected involvement in Friday's attempted coup. Photo / AP

Arrests and sackings of those allegedly linked to a failed coup plot in Turkey intensified today as authorities fired 8000 police officers, raising fears of an all-out purge of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's opponents.

Turkish fighter jets patrolled the skies, and people seemed on edge over the mass detentions and potential for more unrest in this NATO member country and important Middle Eastern ally of the United States.

The report by Turkish media that thousands of members of the police force across the country had been sacked followed on an anouncement the day before that 6000 people, about half from the military, had already been detained.

Erdogan's government appears to have turned on the police forces despite the fact that they joined thousands of fellow Turks over the weekend who heeded his call to take to the streets and oppose the renegade soldiers carrying out the coup.

At least 265 people died in the coup that saw tanks and helicopters firing on civilians supporting the government in a night of chaos and violent in major Turkish cities.

Erdogan appears to have used the coup attempt to further concentrate powers in his hands. The nationwide arrests and dismissals have unsettled a country that was already bitterly divided over what many describe as a yearslong effort by the Turkish leader to cripple his rivals and weaken counterbalancing institutions.

In the wake of the failed coup, he has suggested restoring capital punishment, which was abolished in 2004.

The statement earned a sharp rebuked from Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz ahead of a meeting with fellow European Union ministers, who called it "absolutely unacceptable."

"There must be no arbitrary purges, no criminal sanctions outside the framework of the rule of law and the justice system," he said in newspaper interview published Monday.

The international community has strongly backed the Turkish government against the coup, but there has been some disquiet about the recent purges.

Federia Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said Monday that the rule of law and system of check and balances must be respected in the coup's aftermath.

Arrest warrants have also been issued for at least 2,745 judges and prosecutors across the country, according to Turkish media reports.

The Turkish leader has alarmed many here with his attempts to consolidate power over the years. Some Turks have expressed concern that Erdogan will use the attempted coup to further marginalize all forms of challenge to his growing powers, whether peaceful or not, even as the country struggles with myriad crises.

Those include deep divisions over the role of Islam in Turkish politics, worsening unrest from within the large minority of Kurdish citizens and spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Turkey defense minister told supporters of Erdogan to stay in the streets for now, warning that the threat of the coup was not over.

"The coup was prevented, but we can't say the threat is gone," said Fikri Isik, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. "We ask you to closely follow every statement of Mr. President and stay in the squares."

- Washington Post

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