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Turkey moves away from allies as purges continue

July 23, 2016

The Turkish government has said it will adhere to democratic principles and rule of law. This comes as the purge of civil servants exceeds 10,000 people and relations with the US are strained.

Türkei Erdogan Unterstützer in Istanbul
Image: Reuters/O. Orsal

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said Saturday that the government's crackdown in the wake of the aftermath of a failed military coup would not lead to a backslide in democracy.

"From the very beginning, I wanted to say that, despite what has happened a week ago in Turkey, that we will continue to strongly adhere to democratic principles and apply [the] rule of law and not much really has changed," Simsek told a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in the Chinese city of Chengdu. "I know there are question marks."

The aftermath of the failed July 15 military coup has spooked investors, who have dumped the Turkish lira currency and sold off stocks.

The EU has not formally suspended the talks, though a document from 2005 says the commission can recommend suspension of negotiations in the case of a serious breaches of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Ankara has hinted at re-establishing the death penalty.

Germany has already indicated that the brakes were being applied to Turkey's accession process due to recent events.

"This is not a German decision after all," Germany's government spokesman Steffen Seifert said Friday.

Türkei Anhängern Erdogans verbrennen Bildnis von Fethullah Gülen
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan burn an effigy of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen during a pro-government demonstration at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 20, 2016.Image: Reuters/A. Awad

Post-coup crackdown continue as thousands purged for suspected disloyalty

More than a week has passed and the number of people arrested has climbed to 10,410, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Anadolu news agency in late-night comments, with more than 4,000 detained.

Of the 10,410 people arrested, 7,423 were soldiers; 287 were police; and 2,014 were judges and prosecutors. Furthermore, 686 civilians had been arrested. Of the soldiers, 162 were generals, nearly half Turkey's generals. Turkey has NATO's second-largest army.

More than 37,500 civil servants and police officers have also been suspended; 21,000 teachers in private schools have lost their licenses causing many schools to shut down.

The government also voided the passports of nearly 11,000 people, mostly federal employees, Interior Minister Efkan Ala, told private broadcaster CNN Turk.

US-Turkey relations under strain

The rapid pace of arrests - which Erdogan insists is targeting supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan says was behind the failed July 15 coup - has worried many of Turkey's Western allies, who say they see Turkey going down an increasingly authoritarian road.

It's also strained relations with Turkey's ally the United States. Turkish politicians and its allies in the pro-government factions have suggested that Washington is league with Gulen's organization and had supported the failed coup attempt.

That's led US President Barack Obama to issue a rare denial of Washington's prior knowledge of involvement in the coup attempt.

"Any reports that we had any previous knowledge of a coup attempt, that there was any US involvement in it, that we were anything other than entirely supportive of Turkish democracy are completely false," Obama said Friday. "And I said that to President Erdogan. And I also said to him that he needs to make sure that not just he, but everybody in his government, understand that those reports are completely false because when rumors like that start swirling around, that puts our people at risk on the ground in Turkey and it threatens what is a critical alliance and partnership between the United States and Turkey."

The Turkish government continues to press for the extradition of Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania.

But Obama said Friday that any decision on whether to extradite Gulen "is not a decision that I make." He said it would be the end result of a legal process for judging extradition requests by a foreign government.

jar/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters)