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Turkey sacks thousands over 'national security' concerns

July 8, 2018

More than 18,000 police officers, soldiers and academics have been fired in Turkey the day before a powerful executive presidency comes into force. Rights groups have called on Turkey to end such repressive measures.

Turkish flags wave in front of a backdrop of the Istanbul skyline
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/E. Gurel

Turkish authorities sacked more than 18,500 state employees in an emergency decree published on Sunday. The workers were fired over suspected links to groups that "act against national security."

Those dismissed included about 9,000 police officers and 6,000 members of the military. They will also have their passports cancelled. Some 12 non-government organizations, three newspapers and one TV channel will close under the measure.

Sunday's announcement came a day before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan begins a new term in office with new presidential powers following his victory in last month's elections.

Turkey's state of emergency has been renewed seven times since its imposition five days after the coup bid. The current renewal expires on July 19.

Read more: Recep Tayyip Erdogan: The sultan of 21st-century Turkey 

More than 140,000 public workers have been sacked or suspended including teachers, judges, police officers and academics since July 2016
More than 140,000 teachers, judges, police officers and academics have been sacked since the failed coupImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Nimani

Early end for state of emergency?

Officials have indicated the emergency measures — which limit some freedoms and allow the government to bypass parliament and rule by decree — could end as early as Monday, when Erdogan takes office.

Read more: Turkey transfers some powers to President Erdogan

More than 110,000 public sector workers have been dismissed previously — and tens of thousands of others suspended — under similar decrees issued under Turkey's state of emergency which came into force after an attempted coup in 2016.

The majority of those dismissed were accused by Erdogan of having links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for plotting the failed coup. Gulen has denied the claims

'Climate of fear'

Human rights groups have criticized the crackdown, saying it has had a profound effect on Turkish society. Gauri van Gulik, Europe director at Amnesty International, in April called on the international community to pressure Turkey against such measures.

"Under the cloak of the state of emergency, Turkish authorities have deliberately and methodically set about dismantling civil society, locking up human rights defenders, shutting down organizations and creating a suffocating climate of fear," said van Gulik.

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kw/ls (AFP, Reuters)