domingo, 17 de julio de 2016

Turkey detains 6,000 over coup attempt as Erdoğan vows to 'clean state of virus'

US-Turkish relations fray over Ankara’s claim that coup was planned by followers of US-based scholar Fethullah Gülen

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has called on Washington to extradite Fethullah Gülen. Photograph: Depo Photos/REX/Shutterstock

Patrick Kingsley in Istanbul

Sunday 17 July 2016 14.44 BST Last modified on Sunday 17 July 2016 16.40 BST

Turkey has accelerated its crackdown following Friday’s coup attempt, detaining 6,000 people, as the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, vowed to purge the state of supporters of a US-based Islamist scholar and dissident whom his government blames for the failed putsch.

Speaking at a funeral in Istanbul on Sunday, Erdoğan vowed to “clean all state institutions of the virus” of Fethullah Gülen supporters. Members of what he called the “Gülen group” have “ruined” the armed forces, he said, and are being arrested in all ranks within the army. Broadcaster CNN Turk said Erdoğan’s chief military assistant, Ali Yazici, was among those being held.

Erdoğan also said Turkey would request the extradition of Gülen, who has been given sanctuary in the American state of Pennsylvania, and his backers.

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said more than 290 people, including “more than 100 coup plotters” had been killed and 1,400 wounded.

Bekir Bozdağ, the Turkish justice minister, said in a television interview: “The cleansing [operation] is continuing. Some 6,000 detentions have taken place. The number could surpass 6,000.”

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US-Turkish relations have frayed over the accusation of Gülen’s involvement, with the US State Department releasing a statement denying any link to the events.

“Public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations,” the State Department said, summarising a message given by the secretary of state, John Kerry, to his Turkish counterpart.

Kerry said that Turkey should produce evidence of Gülen’s guilt, amid concerns that Erdoğan was using the aftermath of the coup to settle scores with enemies both at home and abroad. “We would invite the government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny,” Kerry was quoted as saying at a press conference.

The Turkish commander of an airbase used by the US was among those detained on Sunday. An official said Gen Bekir Ercan Van, 10 other soldiers and one police officer from the Incirlik base were being held.

Bombing raids from the base on Syrian outposts of Islamic State, which were suspended after it was claimed that a group of Turkish soldiers were involved in the botched coup, resumed on Sunday. There was no suggestion that US troops at the base were in any way involved.

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Both leaders of Islamist movements, Erdoğan and Gülen once had common cause in Turkey, partnering against secular opponents in the Turkish state. But in recent years Erdoğan has accused Gülen of remotely orchestrating a campaign to oust him from power. While Gülen went into exile in 1999 to flee Erdoğan’s predecessors, Erdoğan himself definitely turned on Gülen in 2014, when Gülen was issued with an arrest warrant for allegedly running “a terrorist group”.

Gülen denies his supporters are behind this weekend’s events in Turkey, and the plotters themselves said they were fighting to protect Turkey’s secular traditions. Erdoğan has been criticised for eroding the secular mentality of the Turkish state, and undermining Turkish democracy.

This has not stopped him from using the coup to crack down on his opponents.

In a speech on Saturday, he said the coup was “a gift” because it would allow him now to “cleanse the army”. At least 2,800 officers and soldiers were arrested on Saturday as the purge began, including five generals. One was Erdal Öztürk, the commander of Turkey’s third army, who could now face the death penalty after Erdoğan’s allies called for a change to the constitutions to allow the execution of coup plotters.

Erdoğan’s purge continued in other state institutions, with more than 2,700 judges fired from their posts. Most analysts agree that the failed coup has given him the public support he needs to push for a change to the political system. Erdoğan wants to formally centralise power around himself as president, rather than the parliament – continuing an autocratic trend that he has led in recent years.

France’s foreign minister warned Erdoğan against using the failed coup as a “blank cheque” to silence his opponents. “We want the rule of law to work properly in Turkey,” Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 television. Ayrault said the events of the past two days had also raised questions about Turkey’s “reliability” in the fight against Isis.

The Turkey analyst Andrew Finkel said “many would argue that Turkey was already in the throes of a slow motion coup d’état, not by the military but by Erdoğan himself. For the last three years, he has been moving, and methodically, to take over the nodes of power.”

Nevertheless, Turkey’s secular opposition was united in its opposition to the coup attempt. “Yes, we have problems in Turkey,” said Hişyar Özsoy, an MP for the pro-Kurdish HD party. “But at the same time no military intervention can be a solution.”

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