Turkey's opposition warns against post-coup witch hunt

AP , Tuesday 26 Jul 2016

Turkey Military Coup
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Leader of Republican People's Party (CHP) speaks at Istanbul's Taksim Square on July 24, 2016.Photo: AFP

Turkey's opposition leader warned Tuesday against a government witch hunt following Turkey's failed coup, saying it would cast a shadow on the democracy that those who opposed the insurrection tried to protect.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Kemal Kilicdaroglu also said the United States should extradite a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom the government accuses of being behind the failed July 15 uprising.

"Those who are innocent should not be thrown into the fire with those who are guilty," said Kilicdaroglu, leader of the pro-secular opposition Republican People's Party. "The start of a witch hunt would cast a shadow on the struggle that is being led for democracy."

Turkey has detained more than 13,000 people in the military, judiciary and other institutions in a purge after the attempted coup, which left about 290 people dead. Tens of thousands of others have been suspended from their jobs in sectors including education, health care, police, city government and even the Turkish national airline.

Those who have been purged are accused of ties to the movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, although their direct links to the coup attempt are not clear. Gulen has denied any part in the foiled uprising by a faction within Turkey's military.

On Tuesday, two Turkish generals serving in Afghanistan and a former Istanbul governor were detained as part of the government crackdown. The two generals were caught in Dubai, while the governor, Husayin Avni Mutlu, who served from 2010-2014, was detained in Istanbul, an official at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations on speaking to the media.

Police on Tuesday also detained two more journalists a day after authorities issued warrants for the detention of 42 journalists, many of them who had worked for Gulen-linked media.

Kilicdaroglu cautioned that authorities should act within the law and pursue only those linked to the coup plot.

"Are those who carried out the coup attempt guilty? Yes. The real culprits must be found," Kilicdaroglu said. "If we go out of the norms of the law, then we are no different to the coup-plotters."

"The detention of journalists is not a pretty development," Kilicdaroglu added. "If they have direct ties to the coup, that's a different matter. But the detention or arrest of a journalist for expressing opinions, for covering an issue, is not right."

Kilicdaroglu said he backed the government's efforts to extradite Gulen.

Gulen himself told reporters, and repeated in an opinion piece for The New York Times, that he had nothing to do with the coup and had denounced it from the start. He called on the United States to reject Turkey's extradition request for him.

"Turkey's president is blackmailing the United States by threatening to curb his country's support for the international coalition against the Islamic State group. His goal: to ensure my extradition, despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial. The temptation to give Mr. Erdogan whatever he wants is understandable. But the United States must resist it," Gulen wrote in the article.

"For the sake of worldwide efforts to restore peace in turbulent times, as well as to safeguard the future of democracy in the Middle East, the United States must not accommodate an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government," Gulen said.

Gulen insisted his philosophy was one of "inclusive and pluralist Islam" that rejected armed rebellion and espoused respect for all, regardless of religious or political views or ethnic origins.

"In Turkey, the Erdogan government's shift toward a dictatorship is polarizing the population along sectarian, political, religious and ethnic lines, fueling the fanatics," Gulen wrote.

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