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Week after Turkey coup bid, EU slams 'unacceptable' purges

AFP , Friday 22 Jul 2016
Mogherini
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini delivers remarks on the EU new Global Strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on July 21, 2016 (Photo: AFP)
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday faced growing EU criticism over an "unacceptable" crackdown that has seen tens of thousands of people detained or sacked, as supporters celebrated the defeat one week ago of the coup aimed at ending his rule.

The authorities imposed a state of emergency on Thursday, strengthening powers to round up suspects behind the failed military putsch and suspending a key European rights convention.

The European Union urged Turkey "to respect under any circumstances the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms", in a joint statement from foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn.

They slammed as "unacceptable" the sacking or suspension of tens of thousands of people in the education system, judiciary and the media and said they were monitoring the state of emergency "with concern".

Turkey's Western allies have been watching with alarm the turmoil in the key NATO member state, which has also been reeling from a wave of bomb attacks by Islamic State group jihadists and Kurdish rebels.

But at home, Erdogan has basked in the support of jubilant crowds who took to the streets of Istanbul overnight.

Huge numbers were again expected to fill city squares Friday to celebrate Erdogan's victory over the rebels, whose botched coup last Friday with troops, tanks and fighter jets claimed 265 lives.

The president has said July 15 would in future be marked as the "Remembrance Day of the Martyrs".

The government said the coup claimed the lives of 24 plotters, and of 241 citizens and members of the security forces who stood up to them.

Thousands of Erdogan supporters -- many carrying lit torches and waving the national crescent flag -- late Thursday streamed across the Bosphorus bridge that was one of the key battlegrounds.

Flocking to the landmark where Turkish citizens stood up to the mutineers, they brandished signs such as "Our flag, our nation" and denounced the man Erdogan blames for the coup plot -- US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, 75.

Erdogan has repeatedly rallied Turks -- on TV and even with mass phone text messages -- to stay on the streets in the fight against the "terrorist" followers of the spiritual leader whom he accuses of forming a secretive "parallel state" in Turkey.

Erdogan has demanded the United States extradite his former ally turned arch-enemy Gulen, the leader of the Hizmet (Service) movement, which runs a global network of schools as well as businesses, media outlets and cultural centres.

The usually reclusive 75-year-old preacher has condemned the attempted putsch and rejected the accusations against him as "ridiculous, irresponsible and false".

Late Wednesday, after a marathon meeting of his national security council, Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency -- Turkey's first since 2002, the year before he first came to power as prime minister.

The emergency powers allow Erdogan and his cabinet to rule by decree and rights groups and opposition parties fear they could lead to further curbs on freedoms of speech and assembly.

"The road to arbitrary rule, unlawful behaviour, feeding on violence, has been chosen," charged the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

"Society has been forced to choose between a coup or an undemocratic government."

Erdogan has insisted democracy would "not be compromised" and the government pointed out that France also declared an emergency in the wake of a series of bloody jihadist attacks.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said there would be no curfews, and that the special measures may only last 45 days, insisting: "We want to end the state of emergency as soon as possible".

"This is not a declaration of martial law."

Erdogan said 10,410 people had so far been detained with 4,060 of them remanded in custody, including more than 100 generals and admirals.

Turkey has started to close Gulenist schools, may set up special courts for coup plotters and restructure the MIT intelligence service, the Hurriyet and Sabah newspapers reported, citing government sources.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told CNN-Turk that the period of pre-charge detention would be lengthened.

On restoring the death penalty, he pointed to Erdogan's comment that there was popular demand for its reintroduction.

"The president said we cannot close our ears to the demands of the people."

On EU warnings that capital punishment would spell the end of Turkey's membership bid, he said "the European Union cannot tell us much, it has made Turkey wait at the door" for decades.

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