30 governors dismissed and thousands of police officers suspended while autocracy tightens its grip over troubled Turkey

A Journal of People report

A troubled time is haunting Turkey as its ruling clique continues tightening its autocratic grip on the country in turmoil. And, warplanes have patrolled Turkey’s skies following a failed coup, a sign that authorities fear the threat against the government is not yet over. Relations with the country’s western allies are deteriorating, which is becoming a burden on the ruling clique.

As a sign of disoriented governance, thousands of police officers have been suspended on July 18, 2016. The step comes on the heels of suspending thousands of members of judiciary, and detaining a number of them. And Turkey’s Finance Ministry has suspended 1500 of its workers. 

Turkish officials said: Nearly 8,000 police officers have been suspended, reportedly on suspicion of having links to the coup attempt only days ago.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says the Interior Ministry has sacked close to 9,000 personnel across the country, following the coup attempt. Anadolu said a total of 8,777 employees attached to the ministry were dismissed including 30 governors, 52 civil service inspectors and 16 legal advisers.

Other media reports said military police officers and coast guards were also removed from duty.

Fears of an all-out purge are now gripping the society. The quick move raises questions on preparation of the measures following the failed coup only a few days ago. It appeared the Turkish government had pre-prepared lists of people to be arrested before the coup attempt.

The EU official responsible for Turkey’s request to join the EU, Johannes Hahn, feared that the government was rounding up opponents it had already listed for arrest before the coup.

“It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage,” Hahn said before the EU meeting. “I’m very concerned. It is exactly what we feared.” He spoke before a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Some 6,000 members of the judiciary and military including generals have been detained by July 17, 2016.

State media reported on Monday that more than 100 generals and admirals have been detained in raids across the country. Maj. Gen. Ozhan Ozbakir, commander of a large garrison in southwestrn Turkey, is among those detained.

Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim put the total numbers of detentions since Friday’s coup attempt at 7,543 including 6,030 military.

Turkish president Erdogan vowed to purge state bodies of the “virus” that caused the revolt. Erdogan told a crowd on Sunday that Turkey would consider reinstating the death penalty.

Capital punishment was abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. Nobody has been executed in the country since 1984.

Germany says negotiations for Turkey to join the EU would end if the Turkish government decides to revive the death penalty following a failed coup.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin Monday that the EU is a “community of values, therefore the institution of the death penalty can only mean that such a country could not be a member.”

Turkish prosecutors have started interrogating more than two-dozen generals including the alleged coup leader over the attempted overthrow of Erdogan government.

The US secretary of state John Kerry has stressed the importance of democratic rule. He was speaking in Brussels where he has been meeting European foreign ministers

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stressed the importance of the rule of law prevailing, and said ministers shared concerns about “what is happening in Turkey in these hours”, a reference to the rounding up of suspects.

“We need to respect, have Turkey respect, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms,” she said.

The EU and US say Turkey must respect democracy and human rights in its response to a failed coup.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says rule of law must prevail in Turkey at a time the government is rounding up suspects. She said Washington and Brussels agree on the need for Turkey to respect democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Mogherini spoke Monday at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after Kerry met the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers.

Kerry slammed implications made by Erdogan that the U.S. was involved in the failed coup. Tensions between the two countries are high as a result of Erdogan’s allegations.

Increasing the Turkish drama, U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Turkey blames for a failed coup, said Erdogan had staged the putsch.

Embattled Erdogan has demanded the U.S. hand over the man, Fethullah Gulen, he says was responsible for the failed coup.

The demand could foment a crisis in U.S.-Turkey relations, since the U.S. is unlikely to want to honor the request without hard evidence, which could affect Turkey’s role as a key ally in the fight against ISIS and the handling of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.

Erdogan issued the call while addressing a crowd of supporters in Istanbul Saturday. “I call on the United States and President Barack Obama: Dear Mr. President, I told you this before, either arrest Fethullah Gulen or return him to Turkey. You didn’t listen,” Erdogan told his supporters.

Kerry told Turkey has made no formal request for extradition, and that he’d asked the country’s foreign minister to make the official request, saying that “the United States is not harboring anybody.” “We have always said, ‘Give us the evidence, show us the evidence, we need a solid, legal foundation that meets the standards of extradition in order for our courts to approve such request,’” he told on “State of the Union”.

Kerry had spoken with the Turkish foreign minister and during that call Kerry had offered U.S. assistance with an investigation into those involved with the coup.

But he added that “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.”

On Saturday, however, Erdogan further implored the U.S. in Istanbul: “I call on you again, after there was a coup attempt, extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey! If we are strategic partners or model partners, do what is necessary.” “I say to America: Either execute or give the man who lives in a 400,000 square meter area in Pennsylvania,” Ergodan said before a crowd in Turkey. “I call again after the attempted coup. Deliver him to Turkey.”

Erdogan also brought in to question the relationship between the United States and Turkey. “If we are strategic partners, then listen to your partner and do what we say. We gave you whatever terrorist you demanded. Now, give us the person that is on our terror list”

The situation risks developing into a major crisis in U.S.-Turkey relations if the U.S. declines to extradite or arrest Gulen.

Gulen and Erdogan started out as political allies, both opposed to Turkey’s secular elite, but they had a falling out and Erdoan’s government has since designated the Gulen movement a terrorist organization.

Erdogan is rounding up any and all suspects in the coup attempt. He is making a broad sweep across the country to arrest persons he believes were involved in the failed coup.

A military officer was detained after he shot and killed the driver of a vehicle that he hijacked.

Prosecutors have begun questioning 27 generals and admirals over the failed coup. Anadolu said the group being questioned by prosecutors in Ankara includes former Air Force commander Gen. Akin Ozturk, who has been described as the ringleader of the foiled uprising.

Saudi-owned broadcaster Al-Arabiya says Saudi authorities detained Turkey’s military attache to Kuwait while he was at the airport in the eastern Saudi city of Dammam.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Dubai-based broadcaster said Monday that the attache, Mikail Ihsanoglu, was on his way to Düsseldorf, Germany via Amsterdam when he was detained.

The official Saudi Press Agency meanwhile reported that Saudi King Salman, who is vacationing in Morocco, called Erdogan to “congratulate him on Turkey’s return to normality” after an attempted military coup.

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said Turkish authorities’ reaction to the failed coup needs to be “proportionate.” He says he was alarmed by the arrests of judges and calls for reinstatement of the death penalty against coup participants.

There are now concerns that Erdogan is using the aftermath of the attempted coup to crack down not just on its perpetrators but also on political opponents who were not involved in the rebellion. For several years, Erdogan has been accused of rising authoritarianism, and some argue this is more of the same.

One Turkish official said: “I understand that the numbers seem excessive, but right now this is about preventing the next wave of attacks.”

Meanwhile, a video emerged in Turkey that purportedly showed some of the alleged military masterminds of the coup, now handcuffed and in detention. With bruised faces, they give their names – to scorn and derision from interrogators. “Are you happy now?” an interrogator shouts, before telling them: “Get out – fast.”

US jets have resumed operations in the fight against Islamic State after being grounded for two days at an airbase in southern Turkey. The early signs were confusing.

Before the Incirlik airbase reopened, Turkish authorities arrested the base’s commander, Gen Bekir Ercan Van and 11 other suspects, claiming they were involved in the attempted coup.

Once he had regained his footing, Erdogan showed no signs of gratitude to opposition parties whose condemnation of the attempted putsch contributed to the speed of its collapse.

“We would have liked Erdogan to use this as an opportunity for a more open democratic society, but the rhetoric has been one of vengeance,” said Hidyar Ozsoy, an MP and spokesman on foreign affairs of the leftist pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP).

The HDP’s unexpected success in elections last year presented a significant obstacle to Erdogan’s constitutional ambitions. Since then, the president has sought to link them to Kurdish militants, lifting their parliamentary immunity and pursuing HDP members in the courts. “We expect this coup attempt to lead to even greater repression,” Ozsoy said.

Two judges on the constitutional court have been detained, despite their supposed legal immunity.

Erdogan has previously made clear he did not accept the court’s ruling this year in favor of two prominent journalists jailed for allegedly revealing state secrets.

Andrew Finkel, an Istanbul-based journalist and founder of P24, a group supporting press freedom in Turkey, said: “We thought justice couldn’t have been any more arbitrary that it was already but we may have been wrong.

“Erdogan’s agenda is to create an executive presidency in which his authority is unfettered. To think he won’t use this to advance that aim is counter-intuitive to say the least … Erdogan’s modus operandi is every time he sees a half-open door, he kicks it wide open.”

A major cost of an accelerated drive towards an authoritarian state would be Turkey’s relationship with the west, in particular the US.

Turkey coup attempt raises fears over safety of US nuclear stockpile. About 50 nuclear bombs are stored at Incirlik airbase, which was closed after Turkey claimed coup plotters used it.

The attempted coup and the subsequent closure of the Incirlik airbase have raised fresh questions about the wisdom of the US stationing the biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons in Europe at such a vulnerable site.

“I think the key lesson is that the benefits of storing nuclear weapons in Turkey are minimal but the risks have increased significantly over the past five years,” said Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “I would say that the security situation in Turkey and in the base area no longer meet the safety requirements that the United States should have for storage of nuclear weapons. You only get so many warnings before something goes terribly wrong. It’s time to withdraw the weapons.”

Ian Kearns, the director of the European Leadership Network thinktank, said: “If they are stationed at a place base that intelligence suggests is a target of terrorists attacks and prone to instability, it is no longer reasonable to keep them there.”

The coup and the involvement of Incirlik also raises wider questions about Turkey’s role in NATO.

“It says a lot about the ability of Turkey to operate in coalition operations if its army can’t be trusted,” said Aaron Stein, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council thinktank. “To have rogue air force commanders flying around Turkey poses a lot of scenarios that NATO hasn’t planned for.”

Stein added: “The fundamental understanding of Turkey as of 48 hours ago was that it was a difficult ally to work with, with a risk of autocratic backslide, but it was stable. Now it’s a difficult ally, with the autocratic backslide maybe going into fast-forward. And it’s unstable.”


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